Los Angeles News

Developmentally disabled adults pros at gardening

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A local business is stepping up, trying to train and find work for adults who have lost their state disability benefits. Budget cutbacks have left adults with autism or who are developmentally disabled with much less help now. There's an effort to train those adults as landscapers.

It takes a team to keep a lush yard well-groomed. Landscapers Alex, Johnny and Matt are all developmentally disabled. They work with supervisor Mario.

They got their maintenance skills at Villa Esperanza, an organization that provides services including job training for people with developmental disabilities.

"What happens for most folks is people hear 'disabilities and' they're kind of just a little bit freaked out," said Michael Greene, Villa Esperanza. "But once they meet the folks that we're talking about they realize, Hey this is just like my kid, or somebody I know down the block."

Villa Esperanza teamed up with a company called Gardening Pros and now they've become the company's busiest workers.

"Most of the clients didn't even realize that I'd made a switch. They just could see in a lot of cases that the job was even being done better," said Anne Phillips, owner of Gardening Pros.

"I just like mowing a lot and weed-whacking and I just like to be outdoors," said one worker.

Homeowners are impressed.

"Oh it's been great," said homeowner Mary Jo Lang. "She does have a professional crew that she started with and I haven't noticed a difference, to be honest. Everything looks great."

These guys are doing such a good job, Gardening Pros may train them in more sophisticated landscaping techniques.

"When you find that right employer, you find that right opportunity, you can get these guys working and then just see the self-esteem rise," said Greene.

(Copyright ©2014 KABC-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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