Opportunities Unlimited opens new greenhouse; hands-on seminar set

ribbon cutting courtesy Opportunities Unlimited
Participating in the ribbon cutting for the new Greenhouse at Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara are, from left, Kellie Spychalski, executive director and chief executive officer at Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara; Marie-Therese Frieri, president of the Board of Directors of Opportunities Unlimited; Robert Cliff, Town of Wheatfield supervisor; Connie Greer, participant in the greenhouse program; Bob Bracikowski, greenhouse coordinator, Opportunities Unlimited; Elise Helrick, participant in the greenhouse program; John Ceretto, New York State Assembly, 145th District; Kevin O’Neil, business manager at Covanta Niagara; Danielle Ruhl, human resources administrative assistant at Covanta, and Dan Caraccio, vice president and regional business manager at Covanta Energy. Photo courtesy Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara

A new, larger greenhouse at Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara will not only benefit the horticulture therapy and vocational programs there, but will provide more space for hands-on workshops and other special events for the public.

A ribbon cutting for the new Covanta Energy Greenhouse was held on Oct. 12 by Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, 2510 Niagara Falls Blvd., Wheatfield.

“Through this new facility, working spaces have been created for people of all abilities to learn through hands-on experience about many different types of plants and floral arranging,” said Kellie Spychalski, executive director and chief executive officer at Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara. The organization also sells plants and other floral items to the public.

Created in 1995, the agency’s horticulture therapy program, called the Niagara Floral Center and Greenhouse, helps individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities. The agency will now be able to increase the number of individuals who receive horticulture therapy and training thanks to the larger space.

The organization also anticipates an increase in sales of its plants and an increase in the number of people who attend hands-on seminars and other special events. Proceeds from all classes, floral sales and events benefit the program. The individuals in the program nurture the plants and create the arrangements for sale to the public for holidays and year-round.

The next workshop for the public will be making a “Fresh Table Top Tree” at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17  at 2510 Niagara Falls Blvd. (between Sy and Witmer Roads), Wheatfield. The fee of $35 includes step-by-step instructions and all materials. RSVP by Dec. 3. For more information, call 504-2617, ext. 244.

The workshops are given by Bob Bracikowski, the agency’s greenhouse coordinator. He did this video on making a cactus garden without hurting your fingers.

It was Bracikowski’s dream for years to have a new greenhouse. The new building has three times the growing and teaching space of the previous structure. Greater accessibility is provided by additional concrete paths surrounding custom growing tables.

Over the last ten years, individuals, garden clubs, organizations and area businesses have raised funds. Covanta Energy became the lead donor. Funding for the tables was made possible by a grant from the Dr. John G. Guillemont bequest administered by St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Niagara Falls.

“We are proud to be among the longest running horticulture therapy programs for people with developmental disabilities in New York State,” Bracikowski said. “It has always been my goal to expand the programming we offer our individuals. I deeply appreciate the efforts of Covanta Energy, and our other donors, to ensure that this program will expand the opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in active tactile programming enhancing their sensory and motor skills.”

“2015 is a year of great celebrations,” Spychalski said. “Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara is celebrating 60 years since being founded by a group of parents who wanted a better life for their children with intellectual and developmental disabilities; the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed 25 years ago, providing a promise of a more accessible world for people with all disabilities; and now the grand opening of the Covanta Niagara Greenhouse. As an organization that supports more than 600 individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, it is our promise to build upon these legacies; to create a community that is inclusive of all people – one where each person is able to live, learn, work and play successfully together.”

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