On Tuesday, April 25th, over fifty individuals bustled determinedly across the NW Works Campus. Members of the staff excitedly supported the individuals attending their Day Support Program with activities like weeding, trimming trees, and spreading mulch while classic rock music filled the air. The day marked the launch of the NW Works Garden Program, and there was much to complete before the start of the growing season.
NW Works, a Winchester-based nonprofit, offers a variety of programs to support adults living with disabilities in the Northern Shenandoah Valley on their career journeys, and the Garden Program will serve as a career exploration site for the garden and agricultural industries. “The garden will offer a low-risk environment where individuals can explore gardening, sharpen their skills, and build confidence as they master the roles and responsibilities,” explains NW Works CEO Grady “Skip” Philips, III. “We can use the garden to train people for positions at Garden Centers, or nurseries, or even farms if that’s the career they want to pursue. Once they master the skills, they will be competitive candidates for integrated roles in the community. Our team of dedicated Direct Support Professionals and Vocational Rehabilitation Specialists can help them find a job and offer ongoing job coaching as they grow in their position”.
The campus boasts an almost 5,000 square foot garden with twenty raised beds in various stages of disrepair. Over time, the garden will be equipped with accessible raised garden beds and accommodative tools for people with limited mobility. Giving a garden of this size a facelift is no small task, but community members across the region have stepped up to move the project along.
NW Works Garden Project Lead, Zikara Lively, has been working tirelessly with the Northern Shenandoah Valley Master Gardeners Association, which has adopted NW Works as one of its projects. Volunteers from the association will volunteer weekly in the NW Works Garden, training clients and staff on planting, weeding, harvesting, and pest control. The team is also partnering with Fox Urban Farms for seedling donations, Shenandoah Sands for rich, fertile topsoil, and The Home Depot Foundation for plants and other necessary supplies. They are expecting to hear back regarding several outstanding proposals in the coming weeks.
Outside of the scheduled volunteer hours, the garden will be maintained by staff and clients across the campus. If all goes to plan, the team expects the garden to produce over 300 pounds of fresh produce each year. Vegetables and herbs not used in culinary lessons at NW Works will be donated to area food banks including the Knights of Columbus Food Pantry in Winchester and FISH of Clarke County.
Residents with extra seedlings, a green thumb, or an interest in getting involved with the mission at NW Works are encouraged to reach out to Director of Development, Carly Stoliker, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or to visit the organization’s website at www.nwworks.com to learn more!