Students with disabilities need your help to learn, grow, and thrive!

Meet Karen, a participant in our expanding horticulture program

Karen worked for 25 years at Jewel-Osco, bagging or retrieving carts but always keeping an eye on the floral section. 

Now retired, Karen has finally realized her dream of working with the flowers, plants, and smells that she has always had a passion for at Little City’s Dorothy Rose Horticulture Center. 

“I like to water the plants and feel the sunshine in the greenhouse,” Karen said. “And I like to stick my hands in mud,” she added with a laugh. 

Since starting in October, Karen has quickly become beloved by everyone in the program and is now one of the seven paid employees at the center. Unlike all the other participants, Karen is neither a Little City resident nor part of the day program. She is part of a growing effort at the horticulture program to allow more people with developmental and intellectual disabilities in the community to be part of the work that goes on there. 

“She is very helpful and very knowledgeable and has been a really great fit,” said Wayne Johnson, horticulture manager. “She has a love for plants and flowers and was looking for a way to stay busy. She wanted to give us a try and it has been great. We hope to open a lot more opportunities for others like this.”

Karen is one of the many horticulture participants staying busy even during the winter months. 

From cleaning and prepping the greenhouses for February planting to making bath soaks, potpourri, and other aromatherapy packages with herbs they grow, there is no shortage of things to be done at the horticulture center. Karen recently helped produce a rosemary mint bath soak that she enjoyed. 

Expanding the winter products such as poinsettias, potpourris, herbs, and bath soaks to be available for public sale is a goal for the program moving forward. 

“We think these craftier kinds of things we do in the winter can expand and even be part of winter sales eventually,” Wayne said. “But everyone stays busy. We already have people going through seed catalogs, circling their favorites, and starting to get ready for planting in February and even late January in some cases.”

With only three months into her time at Little City’s horticulture program, Karen said she is excited for the spring and looking forward to all the planting and flowers to come. 

Thanks to your support, Little City’s horticulture program is not just enriching the lives of residents and day program participants, but even more people with developmental and intellectual disabilities in the community. 

“You can see how this program helps them with their confidence,” Wayne said. “They grow, too!”    

Shop the Annual Plant Sale and help people with disabilities GROW! You can support Karen and all of our resident gardeners during their annual Plant Sale starting on the May 2nd, 2024 at 1760 W. Algonquin Road in Palatine (large A-frame).