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Growing success 

Tucked behind Cuesta College, the Achievement House is easy to miss, even for those who know that it’s been functioning there for close to 50 years, with the same mission: to expand the opportunities for disabled persons. The Achievement House provides vocational services for developmentally and physically disabled clients around SLO County. Clients learn skills for retail, hospitality, document processing and landscaping jobs. Lately, things have been looking a lot greener at the Achievement House for clients and customers alike.

click to enlarge HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW? :  Franklin Hiebert digs in. Clients at the growing grounds Nursery have transformed the gardens at the Achievement house into a fully functional nursery. - PHOTO BY CHRISTOPHER GARDNER
  • HOW DOES YOUR GARDEN GROW? : Franklin Hiebert digs in. Clients at the growing grounds Nursery have transformed the gardens at the Achievement house into a fully functional nursery.

# When your mission is to facilitate the development of vocational and life skills, it is important that clients be given different opportunities to find the jobs they are best suited for. When the Achievement House got the opportunity to work with master horticulturist Carol Hopper and expand their garden, they jumped at the chance. Hopper has been given credit for overhauling the green houses and the gardens, but the Growing Grounds nursery didn’t just pop up over night; it is the result of clients’ hard work and dedication for over a year. P.R. coordinator Mike Metcalf says of Hopper “Carol really brought it [the garden] back to life, she got the clients enthusiastic.�

What was once a patch of dirt has become a full-scale nursery. The Growing Grounds facility now includes greenhouses, open gardens, shade structures, and of coarse the commercial Nursery. Growing Grounds specializes in native plants, succulents and seasonal flowers for all types of gardens. For large scale gardening, the nursery has hundreds of different landscaping shrubs. Clients also make decorative garden stones, pots, and ceramic wind chimes, all hand painted.

The clients take on most roles involved in running the nursery. Clients are divided into crews responsible for regular set of tasks. Crews are assembled according to their ability. Responsibilities might include watering plants, re-potting, pulling weeds, landscaping around the Achievement House, or handling money transactions. For clients at the Achievement House, this is a job. As Metcalf puts it, “They come to work every single day like a job, and are paid accordingly.�

When you buy a plant from the Growing Grounds, you are supporting the community, you are supporting a living wage and independence for members our community that may otherwise be overlooked. The result of learned skills for clients is heightened self- esteem, which comes from working and contributing to the community. Clients learn real skills that can be applied to work in a variety of local industries.

After working at the Achievement House in the thrift store, the nursery or with the paper-recycling program, many clients find jobs with other companies. The Madonna Inn, for example has a history of hiring clients to work in house keeping and in hospitality. For clients, seeking jobs elsewhere, the Achievement House provides vocational training coaches to work with clients on the job, until they are comfortable, and community living services for clients who live by themselves.

There are several ways to support the Achievement House. They operate two thrift stores, one behind Cuesta, and at Best Buys, which has been operating in Morro Bay for over 10 years. Document services, from shredding to mailing are available at the Cuesta location. To find out more about the Achievement house or their expanded-full service Nursery: call 543-9383 or stop by the Achievement House off Highway 1.

New Times contributor Kylie Mendonca compiled this week’s Strokes & Plugs. E-mail your business news to

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