September 2, 2014
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Everything’s coming up roses at West Bay Residential
Jessica A. Botelho
PUSHING PETALS: West Bay Residential client Keri Hickey enjoys being a part of Petals, a program that gives her a chance to earn money, as well as engage with the local community. “It’s fun,” she said.

Things are blooming at West Bay Residential Services, as clients are taking their flower business, Petals, to a whole new level.

The private non-profit organization that provides care and residential support services to individuals with developmental disabilities established Petals about eight years ago. They began by selling flowers within the facility, but recently took it a step further by expanding sales to the community.

“We need to be out in the community,” said Penny Merris, the director of the day program. “This is a way to get out there.”

Others agreed, including Deb Duke, West Bay’s job coach.

“We were looking for different activities for people to do in-house, as well as give them the chance to be able to go out into the community,” said Duke. “Employment First wants everyone to be out in the community working.”

Under the United Sates Department of Labor, Employment First is a concept that aims to facilitate the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace and community. Through this approach, community-based integrated employment is the first option for employment services for youth and adults with significant disabilities.

Petals gives clients at West Bay Residential the chance to do just that.

“They get to go out and meet people on a weekly basis,” Duke said. “They like to brighten peoples’ day by bringing them flowers. The people getting the flowers are always thrilled.”

Clients are also excited. Cathy Keithan, one of the clients who started Petals, attended a flower class to learn best methods to make arrangements. She works on landscaping projects at the facility, as well.

“I multi-task,” Keithan said, noting that she loves putting together arrangements, while Duke added, “she knows all the names off all the plants and flowers. She’s the expert.”

Another client, Keri Hickey, also enjoys the program. She likes meeting new people and delivering flowers.

“It’s fun,” she said. “We pick off all the leaves and put the flowers in vases.”

To create the arrangements, which are lush with carnations, roses, mums and more, staffers purchase flowers at Carbone Florists in Cranston. They then take the flowers back to the facility for clients, who make various arrangements, including bud vases.

“Every week, we deliver fresh flowers and pick up the old flowers,” Duke said.

Bud vases are $3 each, while prices for other arrangements vary. Some sell for $75.

“It depends on what people want,” Duke said.

They also do centerpieces, which local businesses use during conferences and other events.

“We just need a week’s notice,” Duke said.

Proceeds benefit clients involved in the program.

“It’s money we can give to the people who are helping out,” Duke said. “They enjoy doing it and it keeps them active. People like having them come to deliver the flowers.”

To place an order, call 738-9300, extension 309. West Bay Residential Services is located at 158 Knight Street.


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