Fresh blueberries are a beloved staple of summer and for the past five years, they have been a summer-time tradition at Abilis with Grahamberries, part of Abilis’ Competitive Employment Program. This year, pints and quarts of Grahamberries are available at Abilis Gardens & Gifts, 50 Glenville Street, in Greenwich, Connecticut. Orders should be placed in advance by calling 203-531-4438. Pints are $5 and quarts are $9.
Grahamberries is a unique partnership with an organic blueberry farm in upstate New York owned by Peter and Philippa Orzulak. Peter and Philippa’s son Graham, age 29, was diagnosed as an infant with Angelman Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the nervous system. The partnership with Abilis created Grahamberries to help provide employment for their son and others with special needs. Graham has been a long-time Abilis client, beginning with the Early Intervention services in Abilis’ Birth to Three program. As Graham approached adulthood, his family wanted him to have opportunities to be more independent and that included a job. Abilis helped coordinate an individualized day program, residential living and an employment plan, which including selling and delivering organic blueberries from his family’s farm.
Abilis on a daily basis supports more than 700 individuals of all ages and abilities with special needs and their families. The Competitive Employment Program was designed to work with individuals to create customized career plans that build upon their interests and skills and offer avenues toward employment in the community.
“We knew that having a child with special needs would require some creative thinking when it came time for our son to have a job,” said Philippa Orzulak, Graham’s mother. “As our son was graduating school and was ready to work, we started thinking outside the box and worked with the Abilis Competitive Employment team to come up with some work that Graham could do. He started with a paper shredding business and then serviced two snack machines. We started our organic blueberry farm in 2011 and decided that extending the blueberry sales to the clients of Abilis would be a good way to help individuals interact with customers, perfect their sales techniques and learn new job skills. Graham loves selling blueberries around town so much, he is often referred to as ‘the Blueberry Mayor of Greenwich.’”
Founded in 1951, Abilis is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that supports more than 700 individuals with special needs and their families from birth throughout their lives. Services include Birth-to-Three early intervention and customized therapies, to help young children achieve important developmental milestones. Adult Life Services include day programs, social activities, meaningful employment program, and high quality residential services, Abilis has been a leader in serving the special needs community in Fairfield County in towns including, Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Ridgefield, Stamford, Westport, Weston and Wilton, and has a long-standing reputation for individualized, high quality care. For more information, visit www.abilis.us, or Facebook @abilisinc, Twitter @Abilis or Instagram @Abilis_us.