A New Leaf in Broken Arrow provides poinsettias for the holidays and other flowers and plants year round. It also serves as a source of employment and independence for adults with developmental disabilities.
Mary Ogle, executive director of A New Leaf, stands among some of the thousands of poinsettias clients of the Broken Arrow nonprofit have grown this year.
The greenhouses tucked behind A New Leaf’s brightly painted building are filled with more than 390 varieties of flowers and plants, as well as vegetables. But theirs is not the only growth happening inside. The Broken Arrow facility is also filled with extraordinary individuals who are doing amazing — and life-changing — work.
Every Monday through Friday, dozens of adults with developmental disabilities, ranging from Down syndrome to autism, gather to plant, nurture and sell an endless variety of flowers and plants — all while learning to be more independent and earning a paycheck.
A New Leaf, a Tulsa Area United Way agency, opened its doors 32 years ago to provide horticultural-related job training to adults with developmental disabilities. Today, the organization has grown to include life skills and job training, vocational placement and residential services.
“Three percent of the population has a developmental disability,” says Mary Ogle, A New Leaf’s executive director. “That’s 24,000 in the Tulsa MSA (metropolitan statistical area), but only 1,000 of those individuals are participating in services like this, and that means the rest are at home.”
Keeping children and adults with special needs at home is nothing new, but a parent will never know the independence a person with a disability can achieve unless he or she is allowed to try something new, Ogle says.
“To know that someone with Down syndrome can work a full day and manage six greenhouses is pretty spectacular,” she says. “If someone has the desire to work, we want to find something for them.”
In addition to horticulture management, which has been shown to improve cognitive, fine motor and social skills, A New Leaf clients can deliver plants on wholesale routes; work with animal shelters, churches or The Salvation Army; or work with one of the many other community-based businesses that partner with the nonprofit. A New Leaf also offers in-home care, and parents of children with special needs can use the organization’s before- and after-care programs.
But it is perhaps A New Leaf’s greenhouse varieties for which it is best known, and with the holidays nearing, the staff is currently focused on its largest crop of the year: poinsettias.
A New Leaf’s greenhouse employees raise 32 varieties of poinsettia colors — from the traditional red to “shimmer surprise,” “Monet moonlight” and “peppermint” — in three sizes, ranging from 6 inches with six to eight blooms to 10 inches, which typically includes 10-plus blooms.
Proceeds from greenhouse sales go to help all aspects of A New Leaf’s services.
“If you’re buying them, buy them from us,” Ogle says. “Our greenhouses carry the same flowers and plants as chain stores; only, by buying from us, you’re also helping a nonprofit. And you’re creating jobs.”
A New Leaf employee Joey Givargidize, 32, says the poinsettia is his favorite plant because it gets the entire staff and the greenhouse’s customers in the holiday spirit. Givargidize has worked at A New Leaf since 2007, making foliage bowls in the greenhouses and helping out at The Salvation Army.
“I like the people, and we’re a family here,” Givargidize says of his job.
Carla Helms, 49, has worked in the greenhouses for 32 years. Her enthusiasm for the poinsettias is contagious.
“They’re pretty and they smell good,” she says.
Order up some holiday cheer
A New Leaf’s poinsettias are available in 32 colors and three sizes with prices starting at $9.99. Custom combination planters also are available. To place an order, call 918-451-1491 or e-mail email@example.com, or visit A New Leaf at 2306 S. First Place, Broken Arrow. Hours are 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Visit www.anewleaf.org for more information.