How A New Leaf Is Creating Independence and Changing Lives
Imagine buying fresh produce or bountiful flowers while giving back to the community? Meet A New Leaf (ANL), a hidden gem, ready to be discovered.
This non-profit organization educates, employs and equips individuals with developmental disabilities. Their mission is to provide these individuals (including those with Autism Spectrum Disorder) with vocational and residential services to increase independence and individual choices.
Although Oklahoma has approximately 60,000 individuals with a developmental disability, only 2,500 are served by the state. And 85% of those with developmental disabilities are unemployed, a statistic ANL works hard to lower.
Their vocational services are largely focused on horticulture. Studies have shown horticulture therapy helps those with developmental disabilities improve cognitive abilities, task initiation, memory, stress reduction and emotional bonding.
“We’re providing a safe community for clients to learn, grow and feel successful,” shares Kevin Harper, ANL’s Marketing Director.
ANL has six greenhouses, two retail centers and a farm. In their greenhouse, clients work with job coaches to learn skills such as planting and cultivating bedding and house plants, succulents and poinsettias. They sell items at the retail and wholesale level. Local businesses allow ANL’s clients to come to their offices and sell to employees; thus, clients integrate with society. This past Valentines, they delivered over 160 (more than double last year) dozen roses to customers; over Christmas, they sold 4,400 poinsettias.
At Blooming Acres, ANL’s CSA farm, clients grow vegetables and customers sign up for their share during the growing season. Once a week, clients, who take great pride and ownership of their work, enjoy delivering produce to customers. And half of the produce goes to community food banks and food deserts— teaching clients to give back.
Although Blooming Acres doesn’t have an organic certification, they follow rigid standards. “We naturally grow everything and follow organic guidelines, mainly for the safety of our clients,” Harper shares.
ANL also helps clients not interested or incapable of working in horticulture. Clients bag 3,000 pounds of dog food for shelters every week. Others work at Meals on Wheels, on a wholesale crew daily selling flower arrangements to flower shops across the state, and at a mobile nursery going to businesses to sell products. Some provide janitorial services for churches and business; others make jewelry. Harper always seeks new opportunities for clients to work and receive a paycheck.
Their latest opportunity is an agrihood in Owasso. A private donor gifted them fifty acres of land and ANL’s goal is to break ground in 2020. Here, clients will live and integrate with society —they’re opening the agrihood to the general public.
Another ANL program is Autism Works, a community based, pre-vocational program for youth with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Autism Works helps middle and high school students in the Tulsa public schools make the transition to adulthood, higher education and/or employment through teaching social skills in a classroom setting.
No matter what arm ANL is involved in, their focus is always: what’s best for the client. Just visit their greenhouse to see clients having fun, learning skills, and growing in their horticultural knowledge. And through integration, clients are spreading joy to the community. “Everyday I walk in my own high-five tunnel. I can’t have a bad day!” Harper shares about working with ANL’s clients.
How can you get involved?
Purchase items at retail locations. (See sidebar below.)
Sign up for the CSA on their website, ANewLeaf.org under Blooming Acres.
Donate online at their website ANewLeaf.org/donate. Most of the profits from selling items go to providing wages for clients and purchasing items for the program. They rely on grants and donations to support the organization.
Sign up for a tour of their greenhouse at ANewLeaf.org.
Call ANL at 918.451.1491 for more info.