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Bob Bracikowski (Greenhouse Bob) displays the healthy kale plants participants are growing for Thanksgiving. (Photo by Lauren Zaepfel)
Bob Bracikowski (Greenhouse Bob) displays the healthy kale plants participants are growing for Thanksgiving. (Photo by Lauren Zaepfel)

Opportunities Unlimited celebrates greenhouse grand opening


Fri, Oct 16th 2015 04:45 pm

Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara, the Niagara County Chapter of NYSARC Inc., celebrated the ribbon-cutting and grand opening of the Covanta Energy Greenhouse on Monday, at the agency's location in Wheatfield.

The new building provides more than three times the growing and teaching space for the horticulture therapy and vocational programs - known to the community as the Niagara Floral Center and Greenhouse at Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara.

Greater accessibility for all people working in the greenhouse is provided by additional concrete paths, surrounding custom growing tables. Funding for the tables was made possible by a grant from the Dr. John G. Guillemont bequest, administered by St. Peter's Episcopal Church in Niagara Falls.

"We are humbled by the huge philanthropic effort over the last 10 years put forth by individuals, social and garden clubs, organizations and area businesses, to raise the funds to create this wonderful new greenhouse," said Kellie Spychalski, executive director and CEO of Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara. "Covanta Energy shared our vision to build a fully accessible and improved facility and became the lead donor to ensure that horticulture therapy and vocational training will be offered to the people we support now and for years to come. It is with great appreciation that we announce the grand opening of the 'Covanta Energy Greenhouse' at Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara."

Covanta Niagara Business Manager Kevin O'Neil attended the ribbon-cutting event and expressed his hopes for the greenhouse.

"The Niagara Falls community is not only where we work, but where the majority of us call home. Covanta Niagara is proud to sponsor the greenhouse and the good work of Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara. It is our sincere hope that the greenhouse will continue to enrich the lives of people with intellectual and other developmental disabilities for many years to come," he said.

The agency's horticulture therapy program is seen as vital to improving the body, mind and spirit of individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities.

Individuals with developmental disabilities must be enrolled in one of the agency's day habilitation programs to be eligible to participate in the horticulture program.

The new facility offers a place for people of all abilities to learn about several plant species, the art of floral arrangement as well as the trade of selling the product to the community.

"We are proud to be amongst the longest-running horticulture therapy programs for people with developmental disabilities in New York state," said Bob Bracikowski, greenhouse coordinator at Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara. "As such, it has always been my goal to expand the programming we offer our individuals.

"I deeply appreciate the efforts of Covanta Energy, and our other donors, to ensure that this program will expand the opportunities for people with disabilities to participate in active tactile programming enhancing their sensory and motor skills."

The Niagara Floral Center and Greenhouse, which was created in 1995, will now be able to expand the number of individuals who receive horticulture therapy and training because of the enlarged building and resources acquired through an anticipated growth in sales, attendees at hands-on seminars and other special events, as well as donations.

"2015 is a year of great celebrations," Spychalski said. "Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara is celebrating 60 years since being founded by a group of parents who wanted a better life for their children with intellectual and developmental disabilities; the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed 25 years ago, providing a promise of a more accessible world for people with all disabilities; and now the grand opening of the Covanta Niagara Greenhouse. As an organization that supports more than 600 individuals with intellectual and other developmental disabilities, it is our promise to build upon these legacies - to create a community that is inclusive of all people. One where each person is able to live, learn, work and play successfully together."

For more information, visit www.oppunlimited.org.

Speakers who addressed the crowd included: Spychalski; Marie-Therese Frieri, president of board of directors at Opportunities Unlimited of Niagara; John Ceretto, New York State Assembly 145th District; Robert Cliffe, Town of Wheatfield supervisor; O'Neil; and Bracikowski.


Supporters celebrate the grand opening of the Covanta Energy Greenhouse, located at Opportunities Unlimited Niagara. From left: Kellie Spychalski, Marie-Therese Frieri, Robert B. Cliffe, Connie Greer, Robert Bracikowski, Elise Helrick, John D. Ceretto, Kevin O'Neil, Danielle Ruhl and Dan Caraccio. (Photo by Lauren Zaepfel)

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