November 26, 2017 | Greenwich Time

GREENWICH — After six months of work, Abilis has reopened its renovated and remodeled Abilis Gardens and Gifts. The Glenville facility is central to Abilis’ mission to help its clients, individuals with developmental disabilities, to lead full lives. The gift shop and the greenhouse provide employment opportunities and training.

“It’s all about getting people into the community,” said Dennis Perry, Abilis’ CEO and president. “We want people to have as big and as meaningful a life as they can and what this does is, for people who want a job and want to work in retail, this is their opportunity. I will cycle 12 people through here who will develop a retail expertise that they otherwise wouldn’t have. ”The greenhouse was created in 1992, and in 2012, a garage was transformed by a group of Abilis families who wanted to give their kids and others served by the non-profit agency the chance to develop job experience.  “Today, we are combining them into one retail operation,” Perry said.

Gardens and gifts 2017

A plaque inside the gift shop pays tribute to the Hilibrand and Levy families, who Perry said have been longtime supporters and believers in the importance of training Abilis’ clients so they can secure jobs in the community. Perry also noted the contributions of the Eustis family, the Franck family, the Woodruff family and the Ritch family for their decades of work in making Abilis what it is. Other opportunities inside Abilis include the café, property maintenance, a shredding business and a cleaning crew. Perry said they all provide valuable experience for clients and a chance to prepare for jobs outside the agency. “Not everybody is appropriate to go straight into the workforce,” Perry said. “Sometimes, they need to make the mistakes with us first. This gives them the opportunity to go do that.”


The renovations to Abilis Gardens and Gifts included installation of upgraded windows, roofing and heating systems. New security systems and refrigeration units were put in, allowing for better operations and more products. “This is another step in our effort to bring our folks into the community and to bring the community to us,” Perry said. “We want people to come here. If they come here to shop, our people learn what it’s like to work in retail. It’s a two-way street.” Susie Figgie and Kristy Kasmarski, Abilis clients who have worked at the greenhouse and gift shop, said they are excited to work in the new facility. “My job is really good,” Figgie said. “I’ve been selling the microgreens at the greenhouse and it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve learned a lot.” Kasmarski added, “It’s been great. I like the store a lot and they’ve always been there for me.”

Abilis Gardens and Gifts sells plants of many varieties and fresh-cut flowers. Other goods for sale include household items for the kitchen, cook books, lotions and soaps and holiday gifts. The store is open seven days a week — from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on most days, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. “Abilis is a vibrant part of our community,” First Selectman Peter Tesei said at a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday. “It is truly special and we are delighted to be here to kick off the next chapter.”