Nonprofit Builds Skills For Adults With Developmental Disabilities

Project Innovation

NBC Universal, Inc.

Even though it's a working farm and greenhouse, the mission of the Creative Living Community of Connecticut is to grow more than crops. The program offers adults with developmental disabilities hands-on experience growing job skills and communication skills.

"We've gone from folks who were completely isolated and extremely shy, to coming in and working for a few months in the greenhouse, and almost coming out of their shell, so to speak," said Executive Director Patrick Byrne.

The Creative Living Community of Connecticut is one of the recipients of NBC Connecticut and Telemundo Connecticut's Project Innovation grants.

This year, Project Innovation will give away $315,000 in grants to deserving Connecticut nonprofits.

A group of parents, concerned about what their adult children with disabilities would do once they were no longer able to care for them started the Creative Community of Connecticut in 2009.

Since then, around 40 people take part in the program each year, growing microgreens in their Vernon greenhouse, and crops on their 10-acre farm in Coventry.

The Creative Living Community sells the microgreens to local restaurants and runs a successful farmstand on Route 44.

For some, the goal is learning skills they need to find and keep a job in the Connecticut workforce. For others, it's about learning to communicate with others. For everyone, it's about creating a sense of belonging.

"Everyone deserves to have community and connection," Lexie Gondek said.

Gondek is the organization's operations manager, and also leads art therapy and yoga on the farm.

"You shouldn't have to be isolated just because you don't know how to communicate, because you were born with a different neurological makeup than someone else," she said.

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