Rainbow Omega, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide a sheltered community for adults with developmental disabilities, opened its new Rainbow Garden Center on its grounds located in Eastaboga, Ala. The garden center complements the already existing greenhouse and nursery on the property.
“The garden center was something that was first on the agenda so to speak as far as business development here,” Michael Carpenter, director of development at Rainbow Omega, says. “Our board always wanted to see a retail center of some type to sell the product.”
Rainbow Omega has had the greenhouses and nursery on the property long before he came aboard, Carpenter says, and most of the plants grown were sold on a wholesale basis.
“From a financial standpoint, it [wholesale sales] wasn't bringing in any type of revenue back into the program other than paying the bills to grow the product,” Carpenter says. “The garden center was created to help bring more money in so we can put money back into Rainbow Omega and help lower the cost for caring for these individuals. All we want to do is to be able to break even and provide the appropriate care. The garden center helps us accomplish that.”
Carpenter explained that they are not totally moving away from selling plants wholesale, as they still wish to maintain their customer base, but they wanted to create the garden center so that they could sell products that they grow every day and represents Rainbow Omega and the individuals that have helped grow them.
“Some 90% of the products we are carrying in our garden center are plants that they [Rainbow Omega residents] spent their time filling the pots, putting the plant in, fertilizing, watering and getting it to the point of being salable,” Carpenter says. “I think we have a high-quality product.”
Carpenter also hopes that the garden center helps open the door of opportunity for other manufacturers and vendors who are interested in stocking their product at the facility.
Like most people, the residents at Rainbow Omega find gardening to be a way to relax and connect.
“Gardening and planting are therapeutic,” Carpenter says. “You'd be amazed at how some people who may be withdrawn or quiet come to life when you find the right mix for them. Frequently, that mix has to do with plants, nature and horticulture.”
Carpenter says the reception by the community around Rainbow Omega has been exceptional. The grand opening featured a ribbon cutting and a huge turnout.
“We've had a lot of people in the community we live in that didn't know much about us have seen the store and have been wowed by what we are doing here,” Carpenter says. “Word of mouth sometimes is your best marketing tool. People that live down the road know about Rainbow Omega and buy their plants here, but without having a retail center they would have to drive up to the main greenhouses and try to locate what they are interested in. The garden center allows them to go in and shop not just for plants, but for pottery or advice on how to design something for their home. I think it’s been a welcoming experience.”
Carpenter also hopes that the garden center helps bring people closer together and encourages anyone and everyone to stop by, shop, interact and socialize with some of the residents.
“We hope that people that shop at our store are able to come in and visit with individuals with developmental disabilities and take their experiences back to their own community,” Carpenter says. “I am sure there is someone in their area that they can help themselves.”
The garden center, greenhouses and nursery are staffed with three regular employees and anywhere from three to seven of Rainbow Omega’s residents that rotate daily between the facilities. Residents are also paid for their work at the garden center, greenhouses and nursery.
Rainbow Omega is a program that cares for adults with developmental disabilities 24/7. They have group homes on site as well as an intermediate care program for individuals that have more profound disabilities. The facility offers vocational programs that help provide job opportunities and daily activities within the community, programs that feature 24-hour hands-on care and wellness programs to assist with physical and social skills.
To learn more about Rainbow Omega and its mission you can visit their website here.