The Ability Garden helps people with disabilities give back

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - The Ability Garden gives people of all ability levels the chance to learn gardening skills in a therapeutic environment. Located in the New Hanover County Arboretum, staff members and volunteers reach more than 1,000 people with disabilities each year.

"The fact that you can take plants and impact somebody's life very dramatically, I was just sold, and so I fell in love with the program," said Heather Kelejian, the executive director, who has been with the Ability Garden for 14 years.

People with special needs who garden get a wide range of benefits, Kelejian said.

"Socialization, they get pride in their work, they get to feel that feeling that we get when we give back, and for some of them, they get some vocational skills as well that they can try and go out into the community and try and get a job," she said.

On Thursday morning, Steve Niles was volunteering in the garden, watering plants and preparing for an art festival happening this weekend.

"It was here that I got most of my gardening skills," said Niles, who has volunteered in the Ability Garden for almost 15 years.

The Ability Garden also undertakes a number of community outreach programs, including one where young adults can learn life skills and apply for jobs.

Plants grown in the Ability Garden will be for sale on the following dates: Oct. 21, Nov. 18 and Dec. 16.

This weekend at Art in the Arboretum, the Ability Garden will showcase art from artists with disabilities.

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