I am spending this month (autism awareness and acceptance month) thinking about autism even more than I usually do if that is possible. I wanted to share my experience with developing a Social Enterprise for Individuals with autism and reasons why it may be the right thing to do.
I assisted The Eden II’s Genesis Programs in launching “Seasons for a Reason,” (https://eden2.org/seasons) a new social enterprise that provides meaningful job training opportunities to individuals with autism spectrum disorders. At Seasons for a Reason, participants create and sell high-end seasonal and holiday-themed home decor such as wreaths, coasters, signs.
How Seasons for a Reason was Born
Seasons for a Reason is the brainchild of Erin Archibald, Director of Outreach Programs, where many innovative programs are born. For the past few years, Erin Archibald and I have worked tirelessly to develop a social enterprise business plan, put it into action, and maintain and grow it. Megan Stokes, the Director of Adult and Family Support Services is also now a key person in leading Seasons for a Reason as the Day Habilitation Program will be leading much of the way.
Seasons for a Reason began at The Broadway Mall in Long Island with a production room and a kiosk. Much of the population served at Eden II/Genesis is severely impacted by autism, making it challenging for them to gain competitive employment. According to the United States Department of Labor, employment rates for individuals with autism continue to lag very far behind those without disabilities and even those with other disabilities and we hope to change that for the individuals we serve, one at a time. There are many invaluable opportunities for our participants to be actively engaged in the social enterprise: from design to production, sales, and marketing.
What Happens at Seasons for a Reason
The adult participants and students in the social enterprise are hands-on at many different levels. For example, one participant who is interested in photography takes photos of items being sold to post to our social media and Etsy shop (take a peek here): https://www.etsy.com/shop/SeasonsForAReason
We have a number of participants who love creating handmade items, so they are involved in the creative end. Other participants focus more on their business skills, like using the cash register, taking inventory, preparing orders, or delivering orders.
Hand-painted BBQ Cannister by members of Seasons for a Reason (click to purchase)
The Broadway Mall offered Seasons for a Reason a unique opportunity to spread autism awareness and help people to understand how individuals with autism can be active and productive members of their community. The presence in the mall helped to bring autism to the forefront in the community and maybe dispelled some myths that people may have about autism. People with autism have a lot to offer and they just need to be given a chance to show what they can do. Unfortunately, COVID-19 affected this small business just like many others, and Seasons for a Reason had to give up the production room and the kiosk in the mall in order to put safety first.
NEW SPACE.... for Seasons for a Reason
However, on a positive note, Seasons for a Reason has recently moved into a storefront space, and once times allow an official ribbon-cutting will be announced. This is an exciting step for Seasons for a Reason and all of the new possibilities moving into the future. For example, Seasons for a Reason is currently working on developing "Baskets by Seasons" which will involve creative gift baskets designed by the participants including handmade Seasons for Reason items. Local orders will be hand-delivered.
The Supporters of Seasons for a Reason
Seasons for a Reason is only in existence due to the people who believed in the mission. Founding Sponsors to date include Local Union #3 Sportsmen’s Club, Autism Speaks, The Fanning Foundation, and the Nassau/Suffolk Autism Society. These sponsors have paved the way for this dream to become a reality.
Looking toward the Future!
As Seasons for a Reason continues to develop over time, there will be more opportunities for individuals with autism. Currently, the Social Enterprise provides job training and soon will provide coached paid internship opportunities. There are limited opportunities for
people with autism and so they must be created.
It is through this initiative that a real difference can be made in the life of individuals with autism and Seasons for a Reason plans to continue to do just that. The response so far has been very positive as people want to be a part of this exciting venture and know that they made a mark and that they were part of the reason that someone with autism can say that he/she has a job.
If you'd like to hear more about Seasons for a Reason- this is a 2 part radio interview on 103.9 FM:
If you might be interested in helping to support Seasons for a Reason with a Sponsorship or a donation please reach out to Kara Klamendola@eden2.org
Thanks for Reading!!