PHILADELPHIA — If the music is pumping once you stroll into Kati Mac Floral Designs in West Chester — particularly if it’s a tune by Luke Bryan or Keith City — you may wager staffer Emily Scott is serving as DJ that day.

“I’m type of a celebration lady,” she mentioned. “And I like to greet individuals. If individuals have questions, I’m the individual.”

The environment on this heavenly-smelling store on Excessive Road is so spirited that worker Lily Seagraves mentioned it rivals her second job, as a Philadelphia Eagles sport day occasion staffer who greets followers and provides instructions.

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“It’s actually enjoyable truly working right here,” Seagraves mentioned. “It’s superior and unimaginable on the identical time.”

Whereas Kati Mac Floral Designs has been a staple in West Chester for greater than a decade, final yr it got here underneath new possession when Elaine Scott (Emily’s mother) and Colleen Brennan had been gifted the store to assist obtain their dream of making a significant work surroundings for individuals with mental disabilities.

The complete-service flower store now operates as a nonprofit, with a mission of offering a constructive house for these with cognitive disabilities to be taught, prepare, and develop. Presently, six out of the store’s 10 staffers are individuals who have Down syndrome, together with Seagraves, 19, and Scott, 25.

“It means a lot to me to have Emily working right here and having fun with her employment and discovering her area of interest,” Elaine Scott mentioned.

Brennan’s 15-year-old daughter, Katie, who has Down syndrome, is simply too younger to work on the store however loves visiting and going out to ship flowers along with her mother.

“She asks me on a regular basis ‘Are we going to the flower store immediately? Can we go to the flower store immediately?’” Brennan mentioned. “So I shall be excited to see her work right here someday.”

These two mothers — with no prior expertise within the floral enterprise — undertook this enterprise not solely out of a love for their very own kids, but in addition out of affection for the “village” of individuals they’ve met by the Chester County Down Syndrome Curiosity Group.

“There isn’t any handbook, there is no such thing as a information on find out how to navigate, whether or not it’s college or whether or not it’s a medical situation,” Brennan mentioned. “The way in which my husband and I’ve all the time navigated life with Katie is thru this group of individuals.”

Scott, a mom of 4, created the Chester County Down Syndrome Curiosity Group (CCDSIG) shortly after Emily was born.

Brennan, a mom of two who met Scott by CCDSIG and finally joined its board, grew to become the chairperson of the group’s Buddy Stroll. Below her route, the occasion grew to become so financially profitable that CCDSIG was capable of accumulate financial savings.

Conversations started round find out how to make an actual affect with the cash they’d raised. Scott usually heard from mother and father who discovered it arduous to get significant employment for his or her youngsters with cognitive disabilities, past stacking napkins and clearing tables.

“It’s a very random and individualized strategy for locating jobs,” Scott mentioned. “Some mother and father use providers akin to (the) Workplace of Vocational Rehabilitation or different government-funded organizations. Typically there’s a ready checklist, lack of staffing, or, as I’ve discovered, an extended wait to see in case your waiver cash will fund the service.”

In accordance with the 2022 Case for Inclusion report, solely 18% of adults with an mental or developmental incapacity in Pennsylvania work alongside individuals with out disabilities and earn market-driven wages, barely lower than the nationwide common of 20%.

Brennan and Scott needed to assist change that.

“Lo and behold, this flower store opened up and have become on the market,” Scott mentioned. “It was the proper scenario to take that seed cash and create a enterprise out of it and create this employment alternative.”

The store has had a number of homeowners over its 12 years of operation. In 2016, it was bought by EBS Healthcare, which gives therapeutic and behavioral well being providers, with the intent of getting staff with mental disabilities work there. Scott assisted with the enterprise, and a few individuals volunteered on the store, however the purpose of paying staff with cognitive disabilities by no means reached fruition, and the store closed amid COVID-19 restrictions.

In January 2021, the store was gifted by EBS to Scott and Brennan, who created the Kati Mac Training Basis, a Pennsylvania nonprofit constitution which operates the enterprise with CCDSIG as its father or mother group. They determined to maintain the shop’s recognizable title and its floral designer, Ashlee Smith, who’s been with the store for six years and helped train Brennan and Scott the ropes.

“It’s incredible. It was an enormous change, however a welcome one,” Smith mentioned. “The workers are actually enjoyable to be round.”

The homeowners, who formally opened the store in June and started onboarding staff with cognitive disabilities in January, additionally employed employment supervisor Christy Rainey, whose sole focus is aiding staffers with mental disabilities. Rainey not solely helps prepare staff, she’s additionally a gentle presence on the store to supply help, recommendation and steering.

“I’ve labored with kids earlier than, which was great, however working with this grownup group is superb,” Rainey mentioned. “You earn their belief and that retains them coming again.”

Every of the store’s staff has gravitated towards particular elements of the enterprise. Lily Seagraves is the purpose individual for processing flowers and placing them in buckets; staffer Lauren Kilgore, 22, finds satisfaction in stripping thorns off of roses; and Emily Scott enjoys the clerical roles.

In the case of deliveries, Kati Mac’s has an all-volunteer fleet of drivers, from Brennan and Elaine Scott themselves, to others of their CCDSIG village, a lot of whom carry their kids alongside.

Whereas an enormous a part of the store’s enterprise is weddings, proper now the shop is bustling with promenade season and Mom’s Day orders.

As Emily Scott spoke about her personal mother — whom she calls “my candy love” — she was overcome with emotion.

“The rationale why I name her my candy love (is) as a result of she simply does so many issues for me. (She) takes care of somebody who’s particular wants in her life and … particular wants is type of a part of our lives,” Emily Scott mentioned. “To have particular wants is a superb and exquisite feeling inside. How a lot I really like her!”

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