Delmarva Community Services trainees taste success with herbs

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Special to The Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
Lavender plants are among the herbs now growing in Delmarva Works’ greenhouse.

CAMBRIDGE — Spring started early in the greenhouse at Delmarva Works, a division of Delmarva Community Services, Inc., where vocational trainees have begun their horticultural business by potting tray after tray of herbs.

“In all, there are about 2,000 plants,” Delmarva Works Manager of Vocational Services Domenick Grande said.

The agency located at 1000 Goodwill Ave. in Cambridge enables individuals with developmental disabilities learn life and job skills, while they earn a paycheck. A developmental disability, according to the Developmental Disabilities Assistance and Bill of Rights Act, is defined as a severe, chronic disability which originated at birth or during childhood, is expected to continue indefinitely, and substantially restricts the individual’s functioning in several major life activities. More than 6 million individuals in the United States have developmental disabilities.

The horticultural program and its newly constructed greenhouse are recent advances at Delmarva Works, where trainees have usually done piece work.

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Special to The Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
Peter Riley displayed a sprout called a plug, ready to be potted.

By helping to create their own business, “They are having a hand in growing something on their own, and selling it to the community,” Mr. Grande said.

The current work also coincides with March being National Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. The theme this year is “Side by Side”.

A prepared statement from the National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities said, “Living and working side by side requires forging relationships and raising awareness primarily with those outside of the advocate, professional and family community: business owners, neighbors, faith communities, civic organizations and government leaders. For continued progress, we must raise awareness among the community at large.”

DCS is in its forty-first year serving the area’s vulnerable populations, including individuals with developmental or physical disabilities, the aging, the economically disadvantaged, and veterans. The agency offers persons with developmental disabilities an opportunity to grow through education and employment.

DCS is a private, nonprofit agency.

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Special to The Dorchester Banner/Dave Ryan
Ernest Ritch worked potting seedlings recently at Delmarva Works, a division of Delmarva Community Services, Inc. Vocational trainees at the site on 1000 Goodwill Ave. in Cambridge are learning horticultural skills.

The horticultural project was introduced to the public in the fall of 2014, when trainees created and sold holiday wreaths and crafts. Now it’s just a matter of weeks before the latest products hit the market.

Almost all the herbs are edible – parsley, basil and mint are among them – and there is also some lavender on the way.

“We will definitely be at the Cambridge Farmers’ Market,” Mr. Grande said, adding that he is still looking for other venues. “I’m trying to get us into festivals this spring and summer.”

It’s all being done with an eye to future employment for the trainees. “We use these sales as training to get a job in, say, a gardening center or a farm. It also integrates them into the community,” Mr. Grande said.

In the long term, “I would like to add agriculture to the curriculum,” Mr. Grande said. “The Eastern Shore has such a huge agriculture industry. I think that’s something that we should focus on.”

In the meantime, trainees are learning to pot seedlings, how to keep a greenhouse clean and orderly, and how to follow a watering schedule.

“We’re all learning together,” Mr. Grande said.

Restaurants or individuals interested in buying herbs this spring can reach Mr. Grande at 410-221-6265 or by e-mail at Nick@dcsdct.org.

To learn more about Delmarva Community Services, Inc., visit www.dcsdct.org or call 410-221-1900.

Dave Ryan is editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at dryan@newszap.com.

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