In a brightly lit workshop in Lebanon, Rachel Rice carefully glues candy confections onto a bamboo skewer. She looks up, her face breaking into an easy smile as she proudly shows off her work.
Around her, a dozen others with disabilities chat as they fashion pink and red cellophane into flower-shaped “poofs” and artfully arrange skewers of chocolates in ruffled candy containers exploding with red and pink crinkle paper and ribbons.
- Photos: Candy Bouquet Designs
They’re not Cupid’s assistants, but paid employees of a nonprofit business venture that hires and trains people with developmental disabilities.
For the employees of Candy Bouquet Designs, Valentine’s Day is about more than love and romance; it’s about gaining independence and a sense of accomplishment.
“This is our own self-started microenterprise,” said Kathy Frantz, an adult services provider with the Warren County Board of Developmental Disabilities. “Our goal here is to provide an opportunity for the people here to earn a paycheck.”
The operation launched five years ago as a program of Production Services Unlimited, a nonprofit organization that partners with the WCBDD to provide job opportunities to people with disabilities.
“The economy went down and a lot of our people were coming in from our other (work areas) because they were losing their jobs. We were trying to find other work they could do,” Frantz said.
Candy Bouquet Designs employs about 15 people with a range of disabilities who create custom-made gift baskets. Employees are paid minimum wage or on a piece rate, which varies with the assembly or package, Frantz said.
Last year, workers filled nearly $20,000 in orders. Most of those were for their signature candy gift baskets, which range from $6 to $75, but baskets containing energy and breakfast bars, beef jerky and trail mix, snack cakes and even jewelry and personal care items are also popular.
The nonprofit business is just one of many employment initiatives PSU offers to the 140 people on its payroll.