GrahamBerries are Part of Abilis Competitive Employment Program
Back by popular demand are GrahamBerries this summer at Abilis! These organic and delicious farm-fresh blueberries are sold at Abilis Gardens & Gifts and with other Abilis partners throughout town.
GrahamBerries come from a unique partnership with an organic blueberry farm in upstate New York, “Blueberry Hill," owned by Peter and Phillippa Orzulak, whose son Graham is an Abilis program participant. This year, pints and quarts of GrahamBerries are available order at Abilis Gardens & Gifts, 50 Glenville Street, in Greenwich, Connecticut. Orders should be placed in advance by calling 203-531-4438. Pints are $6 and quarts are $10. Abilis Gardens & Gifts is open M-F, 9am - 4pm. The blueberries are also available at The Café at Greenwich Library and sold at pop-up stands at the Cos Cob and Old Greenwich Fire Stations.
“Selling GrahamBerries has become a summer staple for Graham and other Abilis program participants,” noted Amy Montimurro, CEO and president of Abilis. “GrahamBerries have become so popular that we are setting up booths in different parts of town with some of our business partners and it is just another way that Abilis’ Competitive Employment Program helps provide positive work experiences for adults with special needs.”
Once the blueberry crop comes in, Graham and his team of blueberry sales staff, will also set up locations at the Boxcar Cantina, which is another competitive employment location for Abilis, at local farmers markets, fire stations and other locations to sell the fruit directly. Boxcar Cantina is especially excited about the blueberries and they have plans to make special drinks and deserts with the GrahamBerries throughout the summer (as supplies last). The Café at Greenwich Library will also offer GrahamBerry blueberry muffins, made in partnership with Happiness Is Back Country Market.
Graham, for whom GrahamBerries are named, has been a long-time Abilis program participant. He was diagnosed as an infant with Angelman Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the nervous system. Graham started with Abilis in the Early Intervention services in the 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 included selling and delivering organic blueberries from his family’s farm.
“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. Now after selling the blueberries locally for several years, Graham is often referred to as ‘the Blueberry Mayor of Greenwich.’”
Abilis supports more than 800 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. Abilis’ businesses that are part of the Competitive Employment program include Abilis Gardens & Gifts, Abilis Café, Abilis landscaping and shredding, GrahamBerries, The Café at Greenwich Library, Island Beach Concession and the new Darien Library Café coming later this year.
Abilis is celebrating its 70th year in 2021 of being a 501c3 non-profit organization that supports more than 800 individuals with special needs and their families from birth throughout their lives. Abilis is a leader serving the special needs community in Fairfield County, Connecticut, 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.com/Abilisinc, twitter.com/Abilis, or instagram.com/abilis_us.