UDairy Creamery partners with Center for Disabilities Studies

August 8, 2011 under CANR News

Sophie DeMesse, center, with Geoffrey Steggell and William Edwards

For Geoffrey Steggell and William Edwards, the UDairy Creameryis a great place to hone the skills that they’ve learned at the University of Delaware’s Center for Disabilities Studies (CDS).

UDairy Creamery has partnered with CDS to hire individuals with disabilities to work in the store through the center’s Transition, Education and Employment Model (TEEM) Employment Services program.

TEEM helps individuals with disabilities gain greater independence and involvement in the community. TEEM’s Employment Services program teach employment skills, social awareness, effective communication and self-advocacy.

Although originally hired to work in the UDaily Creamery production area making ice cream, Steggell and Edwards also operate the cash register and take customer orders. They receive on-the-job coaching from CDS employment specialist Sophie DeMesse, who helps them communicate and problem solve.

DeMesse is a 2010 graduate of UD’s College of Education and Human Development who has a degree in human services with a minor in disabilities studies. As an employment specialist for TEEM Employment Services, she guides individuals with disabilities through the entire process of employment, helping them to obtain and maintain jobs in the community.

Steggell, a 22-year-old graduate of Newark High School, says he loves working at the UDairy Creamery. His favorite aspect of the job is working at the cash register, but he also enjoys making ice cream. He works with the food science team to create various flavors, including the new Cinnamon Toast Crunchie.

Edwards, a 21-year-old graduate of Hodgson Vocational Technical High School, also enjoys his time at the UDairy Creamery, where his favorite part of the job is making ice cream. He takes part and enjoys all aspects of making ice cream and helping to operate the creamery.

As employees of the UDairy Creamery, Steggell and Edwards learn how to work as members of a team, how to provide good customer support and—most importantly—how to make great ice cream. But they aren’t the only ones who benefit from the partnership between UDairy Creamery and CDS.

UDairy Creamery manager Melinda Litvinas says that employees can learn how to interact more effectively with individuals with disabilities as members of the workforce and community. As the program has continued, Litvinas says that she has “observed a positive response to Geoffrey and William’s work from both the creamery employees and the public.”

DeMesse agrees that the entire community benefits from this and other TEEM Employment Services partnerships because employing people with disabilities opens the eyes of customers and other employees to new situations and possibilities. “There are many challenges and many barriers to getting a person a job, but it’s so rewarding when the individual can work independently, loves the job and succeeds in doing just as well as anyone else,” she says.

CDS actively reaches out to prospective employers like the creamery who are open to employing individuals with disabilities. “We are so grateful for the openness that many employers at UD have demonstrated by creating opportunities for individuals with disabilities,” says Brian Freedman, director of the TEEM unit.

Since starting work at the UDairy Creamery, Steggell and Edwards have both been accepted into TEEM’s new Career and Life Studies Certificate (CLSC) program. This program is designed for individuals who want to continue their education after high school but require additional assistance. The two-year CLSC program, which leads to a certificate, is tailored to the needs of the individual and provides coaching and peer mentoring for the participants. It gives young adults like Steggell and Edwards more options for their future.

For more information about the UDairy Creamery and special promotions, “like” UDairy Creamery on Facebook or visit the creamery website.

Information about the Center for Disabilities Studies is available at the center’s website.

Article by Jenna Byers

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article was originally posted online on UDaily.

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Therapeutic community garden offers natural relief

December 6, 2010 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

When we’re having a bad day, many of us intuitively seek relief in nature, whether that means a hike in the woods, quick stroll through the park, or merely adding a green plant to an otherwise sterile work cubicle.

Scientists would say we’re doing the right thing. A slew of studies indicate that interaction with nature reduces stress and anger, improves cognitive performance and increases one’s sense of connection to the world.

For those who are experiencing more than just a bad day and suffer from depression or other mental illnesses, the benefits of nature may be even greater.

Recently, Cooperative Extension and the Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture at the University of Delaware began helping clients of the state’s Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) enjoy the uplifting benefits of nature. They developed plans for a therapeutic and community garden on DHSS’s Herman M. Holloway, Sr., Campus in New Castle.

Partners in the project include UD’s Center for Disabilities Studies, Delaware Department of Agriculture, Delaware Center for Horticulture and the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

The Longwood Fellows took on the garden design as their annual professional outreach project. But even before a single design was sketched, Extension and Department of Agriculture professionals got to work on an education program for the clients.

“We offered workshops to develop interest in gardening,” says Carrie Murphy, horticulture agent for New Castle County Extension. “There was already a lot of interest; in fact, the clients wanted to begin growing vegetables immediately. So we designed and planted a 20- by 30-foot vegetable garden at the Holloway campus this past summer and showed the clients how to prep the soil, plant, weed, compost and harvest.”

First-year crops included popcorn, pumpkins, sweet corn and sunflowers.

Thursday has become “Garden Day” when Extension and Department of Agriculture staff and Master Gardeners offer structured activities at the Holloway campus.

One week, Master Gardener Hetty Francke gave a composting demonstration, another week entomologist Brian Kunkel discussed how to tackle garden pests. Even now, as winter draws near, Garden Day continues. One recent Thursday, Department of Agriculture entomologist Heather Disque gave a talk on where bees spend the cold-weather months.

Holloway clients and employees provided input into the therapeutic garden’s design.

The Longwood Fellows organized a design charrette, a brainstorming session with Holloway clients and other stakeholders, as well as representatives from the professional horticulture community. The fellows also held informal focus groups on the Holloway campus.

One thing they quickly discovered, says Longwood Fellow Rebecca Pineo, was the clients’ wish to memorialize individuals buried in a nearby potter’s field. So the garden design maintains open sight lines to this field from the main garden area. In addition, the clients will be creating garden art in on-site ceramic studios; some of these works may be utilized for memorial purposes.

Before hitting the drawing board, the fellows also researched existing therapeutic gardens. A few traveled to the Buehler Enabling Garden at the Chicago Botanic Garden, which is considered a model in engaging people of all abilities in gardening. And all 10 fellows visited Philadelphia’s Friends Hospital, which has had a therapeutic garden on site since 1817.

The final design that the Longwood Fellows created splits the one-acre garden into quadrants that feature raised beds and green walls. One quadrant will have a slate wall for chalk art, an idea suggested by clients. The design also includes a woodland walk, an avenue of mixed-species trees and two shaded plazas, which can be used for everything from picnic lunches to workshops. Smaller, semi-enclosed seating nooks appear perfect for contemplation.

Sustainable landscaping practices were incorporated into every facet of the garden design, says the Department of Agriculture’s Faith Kuehn, a project leader. The garden design includes native plants whenever possible, uses some recycled materials for garden hardscapes, designates rain collection in barrels and by other means, incorporates a composting station and utilizes solar and other green technologies.

“This project helped me learn about working with a lot of different people,” says Pineo. “We had multiple partners and each partner brought different work styles, perspectives and creativity. It was challenging but it was a good lesson in the strength you can get from partnerships.”

“It’s been a win-win situation for all involved,” says Bob Lyons, director of the Longwood Graduate Program. “The therapeutic and community garden has great potential to improve the experience of the clients of the Holloway campus; it also served to grow the fellows’ experience in coordinating focus groups, design charrettes and conceptual designs.”

Although the educational piece of the project is well underway, the therapeutic garden is still just a design on paper. The project team is seeking donations and grants.

To learn more about the garden, contact Murphy at [cjmurphy@udel.edu] or (302) 831-COOP or Kuehn at [Faith.Kuehn@state.de.us] or (302) 698-4587.

Article by Margo McDonough

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