The students at the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center (WWRC) in Fishersville, Va., now have a new opportunity to learn about potential career opportunities in the green industry. Thanks to the center and volunteers from Dominion Virginia Power, a new greenhouse has been constructed to give hands-on vocational training to people with disabilities.
Benefits Of A Greenhouse Program
“The Life Skills Transition Program (LSTP) at WWRC works with young adults with disabilities to prepare them for successful employment,” says LSTP Supervisor Roy Nelson. “We had a vision approximately four years ago that a greenhouse would be a logical extension of the types of physical activities we engage our students in to assist them in learning what are called soft skills — universal non-technical skills that all employees need to be successful. Currently, LSTP students work with WWRC grounds crews and in the campus cafeteria. We have many students who enjoy and greatly benefit from the grounds work, but this is primarily seasonal work. One of our LSTP instructors who is a Master Gardner suggested a greenhouse as a way not only to expand the LSTP but also to allow students to continue working with plants during the winter months.”
In addition to teaching job skills, the greenhouse offers some perks in the students’ personal lives.
“The greenhouse curriculum will expose students to a variety of growing techniques that will include urban and apartment gardening such as raised bed, vertical and hydroponic techniques,” Nelson says. “Gardening that is accessible for those with physical disabilities will also be included through the use of adaptive tools and customized greenhouse shelving. Food and flowers raised will be used on the campus, including enhancing the salad bar in the campus cafeteria and to beautify the campus, not only enhancing the residential experience at WWRC but also modeling the benefits of gardening.”
Building The Greenhouse
The greenhouse, which will grow produce and flowers, was constructed with the help of volunteers from Dominion Virginia Power. This is not the power company’s first project at the rehab center.
“WWRC has had a strong partnership with Dominion for more than ten years,” says WWRC Executive Director Rebecca B. Lamb. “Dominion volunteers also helped build a dock at the lake along the START Trail, a WWRC-accessible nature trail. Dominion has also donated equipment to WWRC.”
According to Emmett Toms, a Dominion employee and Board Chair of the WWRC Foundation, past projects include “walking and wheelchair-accessible trail for rehab in-patient therapy, lake area renovation with handicap fishing pier and restrooms, landscaping and gazebo area for different wheelchair mobility training surfaces.”
Like many of the projects, volunteers had their work cut out for them.
“The greenhouse was donated by the food service vendor that manages the cafeteria for the more than 300 on-campus students/clients,” Toms says. “The greenhouse package was shipped from the manufacturer in hundreds of pieces.”
At press time, the greenhouse was expected to be operational in November 2012.