HOLYOKE A nurturing touch is apparent at A New Leaf Plant Shop not only for the abundance of plants for sale but also for its employees.
Vocational manager Bentley Chappell oversees the operation at 494 Appleton St. that offers weekday vocational training to approximately 35 individuals with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities. The shop also has a sister act, A New Leaf South at 604 North Main St., East Longmeadow.
"The best benefit is to people we serve," said Chappell who spoke to Reminder Publications during a recent tour of the facility. "We can make a difference in their lives which makes a difference in my life."
Floral designer Lisa Sedelow echoed Chappell's comments during a tour of their expansive greenhouse. Sedelow noted that the nursery is a place where spirits grow as well as plants.
A New Leaf Plant Shops are run by the Center for Human Development, and have taught countless individuals over the years the valuable skills necessary to grow beautiful, healthy plants and produce other products to sell. At the Holyoke site, a wide variety of items are always on view, including colorful jewelry, decorative switch plates in polymer clay, creative artwork and loom-woven scarves.
Chappell emphasized that all crafts are hand done and each piece is an original. Products are also produced for all seasonal and holiday occasions.
The nonprofit plant shops are full-service plant and floral businesses serving the region and the world through FTD. Sedelow oversees a greenhouse filled with tropical and indoor plants as well as everyone's favorites perennials and annuals - and vegetable and herb plants. For persons who love to take in the scents of flowers, you'll enjoy a leisure walk through the greenhouse, as well as taking a moment to check out the corner "pond" that has koi fish as an attraction and water plants aplenty.
The shops also recently expanded into a full line of cut flowers and fresh and artificial arrangements for all occasions.
Chappell noted that special care and preparation is given to every order, whether it's a simple bud vase for a birthday or anniversary gift or arrangements for a party of 100.
Another unique feature of the shops is its interior plantscaping service. Chappell and his staff understand the cultural needs of plants and can supply businesses and individuals with environmental planning, layout and design, and proper plant specifications to ensure one's investment remains healthy and vibrant. Services include weekly watering to maintain proper moisture content, inspection of soil and foliage for insects and disease, fertilization as necessary, and weekly trimming and cleaning of plants and containers.
"It is our goal to prevent problems rather than reacting to them," said Chappell, adding, "that's why we guarantee our plants."
Whether it's guaranteeing plants to customers or encouraging people to grow in their own way, Chappell, Sedelow and their staff make it their mission every day to make a difference in the lives of others in our region.
"It's a vibrant program," said Chappell, adding, "every day creates new experiences."
For more information on either shop, visit www.anewleafplantshops.com. Business hours are weekdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Consultations are available by appointment by calling the Holyoke site at 532-7348, or in East Longmeadow, 747-9191.