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Special-needs residents take to gardening
by Bobby Tedder
btedder@neighbornewspapers.com
July 24, 2013 10:55 AM | 1386 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Just ‘playing in the dirt’ is the slogan.

For the campers tending to their gardens at Pike Nurseries on Thursday mornings, the experience is affording them much more than that.

The participants — ages 15 to 24 — hail from enAble of Georgia, a Roswell-based nonprofit that provides homes, service programs and community living assistance to residents with developmental disabilities.

“I think they’re inspiring us just as much as we’re inspiring them,” said Desiree Heimann, a Pike associate.

Pike and enAble have partnered up to offer two summer day camps, thus allowing the latter’s charges the opportunity of enlightenment through horticulture.

“A lot of it is educational; a lot of it is just allowing them to get outside,” said Heimann. “They can play in the dirt and watch things grow … be able to take care of a garden and watch it flourish.”

Heimann is among the experts on-site at Pike’s facilities in north and south Fulton County on Thursday mornings — through Aug. 1 — where enAble residents are guided through their sessions about tending to their small respective pieces of real estate contained in raised gardening beds.

“This partnership has provided an extraordinary opportunity for [both sides],” said enAble of Georgia CEO Harry Stern.

“It’s opened a world of fragrance, color, texture and hands-on learning to these individuals while offering Pike Nurseries’ staff a unique connection to a segment of the community they might not otherwise meet in a retail setting.”

For Pike Nurseries Chief Executive Mike Kunce, this is not new territory.

Kunce, who grew up with a cousin with special needs, has cultivated his own track record of partnering up with such causes.

“It’s so much fun to see our employees have this kind of interaction,” said Kunce. “And, we expect to [undertake endeavors] like this for a long time.”

Pike staffers are already developing an orchard of semi-dwarf fruit trees at their Roswell location designed for special-needs caretakers.

“There will be wheelchair-accessible ramps, so they can nurture the plants and also pick the fruit,” said Kunce.
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