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Floral program continues despite budget cuts

Date: 1/27/2009

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

HOLYOKE The greenhouse for A New Leaf Plant Shop is warm on a cold winter's day and inside the florist workshop the aroma of fresh flowers is in the air.

The pleasant environment belies a chill that has been caused by state budget cuts.

The florist service and greenhouse is operated by the Center for Human Development (CHD) and was greatly affected by Gov. Deval Patrick's budget cuts last fall. The operation, which employed people with psychiatric and development challenges, lost its East Longmeadow location and staff. The business consolidated at 494 Appleton St.

A New Leaf's manager, Lisa Sedelow, and CHD Director of Development Susan Alston said that initially it appeared both locations would have to be closed, but the Holyoke spot has been able to be maintained.

Sales for the full service florist shop are doing well, Sedelow said, and added an increase in sales would allow CHD to bring back more of its client employees.

"That's my goal," she said.

Alston said the employment here allows clients to have a purpose, which is very important to their wellbeing. Their paychecks allow them have a little money to put back into the local economy.

Some of the clients felt so strongly about their work, they are coming even though the program cannot pay them, she added.

"It made a difference in their lives," Alston said.

The shop currently has five part-time employees, while before the cut it had 14.

Sedelow explained that two professional floral designers oversee the work, which ranges from simple arrangements to those for weddings, funerals and parties. The shop is part of the Bloomnet service.

Besides flowers, the shop's greenhouse produces a wide variety of potted plants. The shop also has a plant service for businesses in which it will select and maintain appropriate plants.

The shop features a line of jewelry as well as hand-woven scarves made by other clients.

Alston said there has been no indication from state officials that funding might be restored during the next fiscal year.

While purchases made at the shop are not tax-deductible, Alston said shopping at A New Leaf is a "really rewarding experience."

The shop is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday and can be reached at 532-7348. Its Web site is