Making a Difference: Nonprofit lawn care company helping people with disabilities grow and succeed
Rachel Pollock grew up in a single-parent home, served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Romania and wanted to be a dentist. She earned a master’s degree in archaeology at Brigham Young University and has participated in archaeological digs in southern Utah, yet she has chosen a different sort of “digs” when it comes to finding new clues to humanity.
Early on in her life, even before earning her college degrees, Pollock worked with individuals with disabilities. During the past 24 years, she has worked for Chrysalis, a company that works with individuals with disabilities. She fell in love with the work; it became her home, her way of life.
“I fell in love with the people I worked with. They always have some fun story. They are enjoyable. The longer I was there, I enjoyed it. They have come to lots of family events. Although they have their own family, they call my uncle ‘Uncle,’ my grandpa ‘Grandpa.’ They became my family,” Pollock said.
Oliver Booth, a father of five children, was born in India and adopted when he was young. He married a Navajo woman, attended Utah Valley University and majored in communications with an emphasis in public relations. He worked in the oil/mining industry until 2015 when the oil crisis hit. That’s when he met Pollock at Chrysalis. Currently, he is associate director at Eaton Alliance, a service provider in Utah who seeks to “make a difference in the lives of people with disabilities.”
While working with people with disabilities over the years, both Pollock and Booth have witnessed some challenges emerging constantly. “Having been in the industry, we have seen gaps where services are not meeting the needs of the individuals,” Pollock said. “We have seen where legislation gets in the way of success and where the legislation can pave new paths. What we want to do is help people overcome some of the challenges they face in their community.”
One of the areas where they have seen gaps is employment. Most of the individuals Pollock and Booth have worked with did not possess the skill sets or job training needed for most jobs.
“These gaps are real barriers to success in the community,” Pollock said. “We wanted to fill as many gaps as we could by providing training, jobs and experience to create real opportunities for people with disabilities.”
Consequently, Pollock and Booth created a nonprofit lawn care organization called Making It Green. Their objective is “… to provide individuals with disabilities skill development, steps towards self-sufficiency, and financial stability. To create a world where anyone can belong as a valuable member of a community. Making It Green has masterfully designed programs towards employment, housing, transportation, healthy living, recreation, and services to individuals with disabilities and their caregivers. We do this with the assistance of volunteers and the generosity of donors.”
When they first started Making It Green, they talked to the individuals they were assisting to determine what they could do and what they wanted to do. All of them wanted to be involved in lawn care and do everything “green.”
“We liked the idea of going green, although it was not an easy transition,” Pollock said, “but we liked the idea of growth, potential expansion and a new life for our clients.”
Unfortunately, most of the funding for their projects has come from Pollock and Booth. They received a $500 grant from Utah Community Credit Union and have applied for several other grants. Other income is generated through mowing laws. All of that money goes back to the individuals and the job coaches who work with the residents.
However, they continue their assistance. During the past couple of summers, they have employed various individuals with disabilities, expanded their skill sets and trained them on how to run the equipment. They have also hired part-time job coaches.
Through Making It Green, they provide onsite, paid job training and actual employment. “Doing lawn care is great because it is instant gratification because they can instantaneously see the results,” Booth said.
“Part of the training we do in lawn mowing is to help our clients create nice lines with the mowers,” Booth said. “For most of them, creating straight lines is a challenge. We are working with our residents so they have a good learning experience. At the end of the year, we do training on how to service the equipment and how to clean it. It has been very beneficial for the residents who are 16 years old and older.”
Lamentably, there are some limits. “We feel limited, though, in the scope of the number of people we are able to employ and help,” Booth said. “The next step is to help more people and expand the scope of our business. We have some other dreams like providing cleaning services, working in food care and providing doggy care — all jobs that our clients with disabilities want to do and can do.”
Both Pollock and Booth feel they are making a difference in the lives of the people they are serving. “Helping individuals keep jobs has been highly beneficial,” Pollock said. “Most of our residents have not been held accountable. For example, we teach them to call in if they are sick and be responsible.”
One of the areas they are working on is developing job training to take to other providers and businesses. “Some of the areas we hope to provide are appropriate basic employment skills like hygiene and résumé building,” Pollock said. “Next year, we would like to implement these and other skill trainings and reach out to different partners and organizations.”
One of the challenges Pollock and Booth experience is that there are individuals with intellectual disabilities who are not employable in a community job. “What we want to do is create specialized jobs to meet their abilities to help them feel successful like any other adult so they can be employed by people who understand their circumstances and disability,” Pollock said.
Another major challenge for people with disabilities is housing. People with disabilities live on fixed incomes, and right now there are huge gaps in affordable housing. Even with housing assistance, they cannot pay a competitive rate. Booth said he and Pollock hope to help find affordable housing for people with disabilities where they can live comfortably.
Still another gap is transportation. Most individuals with disabilities do not drive or are not able to drive and have to rely on public transportation. Depending on where they live, they have real challenges, Booth and Pollock said.
Both Booth and Pollock have an optimistic view of the future for Making It Green. “As we teach a particular job skill and the residents do it, they have felt successful and are happy,” Pollock said. “We feel we are making a difference in helping people with disabilities feel like real adults and helping them so they do not necessarily need as many government resources, but we have a long way to go.”
Making It Green would love to partner with others in helping people with disabilities obtain sustainable jobs that align with their skill sets.
For Pollock, though, it is all about helping those with disabilities feel they are part of the community around them regardless of their disability. They have become a part of her life and her family. “I love my guys, my boys. I couldn’t give them up,” Pollock said.
If you would like to become involved with or donate to Making It Green or have a grant that may help this organization, call 385-236-4777 or send an email to MIGnonprofit@gmail.com.