Growing from a small seed of an idea into a 501(c) 3 Nonprofit organization, Growing Hearts Garden Center was founded in 2018, aiming to create a space where special needs adults could work in a supportive environment.
This dream is inspired by Mason Churchill, a young man with Fragile X Syndrome. Mason’s mother, Peggy Churchill, and his home based education program director, Chris Evans, cofounded Growing Hearts. They envisioned creating a future for Mason, and our community of special needs adults, that is currently unavailable.
Evans’ success with Mason and other disabled youth originated in his learning approach called project-based learning.
Project-based learning is defined as a dynamic approach where students actively explore real-world problems and challenges to acquire a deeper knowledge. Growing Hearts uses this model daily creating projects out of job duties. With job coaches guiding, employees of Growing Hearts perform duties that would be required of non-disabled employees. First they are shown how to perform their position’s duties, then they apply those learned skills with guidance until they can work independently or in groups.
The main business of Growing Hearts is as a nursery. Growing Hearts provides plants and flowers to our local community.
We host pop up sales all over San Benito County promoting our mission as well as gaining revenue that covers our various daily administrative fees. Our employees pot plants, deliver plants, propagate plants, cultivate plants, market products, participate in Point of Sale transactions, and perform landscaping services during certain projects.
We aim to improve our community by beautifying community spaces and bringing every neighborhood beautiful plant life.
Our biggest landscaping project has been the San Benito County Community Foodbank Demonstration Garden where we built an outdoor classroom that provides small space gardening examples and small space gardening classes. We are also active Community Garden members in Hollister, CA. We began training employees in the Vista Park Hill Community Garden so it is the first place our community began feeling our impact. From there we have spread our name all over San Benito County and are hoping to spread it all over California and eventually the United States.
Growing Hearts Garden Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation specializing in supportive employment for individuals in our community with special needs. Through our Project Based Career Training Program we offer many customized learning opportunities. The learning opportunities Growing Hearts provides include independence, self confidence building, teamwork, customer service, and career training. Simultaneously, it is our goal to be a leader in community integration by promoting acceptance in the community and focusing on social, interpersonal and occupation skills.
People with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities should be supported to make informed choices about their work and careers and have the resources to seek, obtain, and be successful in community employment. Growing Hearts offers many different employment activities. Using person centered program models we create powerful training programs for each individual. Each program Growing Hearts offers integrates the individual into their community whilst teaching social, interpersonal, & occupational skills. These programs use project based learning to accomplish personal goals. Throughout each program our participants are provided a job coach or supervising mentor to support the participant until they can complete job duties independently.
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