April 14, 2024
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April 14, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Flowers by J-ADD Combines Chesed and Stunning Fresh Arrangements

Buying flowers for Yom Tov or for a simcha are checkoff items on everyone’s shopping list. However, not everyone knows our community is host to a unique flower service that functions as a powerful chesed fundraiser.

Flowers by J-ADD (Jewish Association for Adults with Developmental Disabilities) sells flowers for the Yom Tovim and is a florist for special occasions such as bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings and gala dinners. Over the last four years, Stephanie Shapiro, a social worker, has overseen approximately 12 J-ADD residents as they create and sell the freshly arranged flowers.

The program was established through an initiative of the J-ADD board to provide an opportunity for meaningful day programming to give residents work experience and skill development.

“Everyone is always saying you can’t tell the difference between our flowers and a florist’s,” Shapiro said. The service provides the flowers for UJA of Northern New Jersey Gala Dinner, and for multiple large events they host each year. Among their clients are the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, Jewish Family Service of NNJ, the Moriah School, Bergen County Y, Solomon Schechter Day School, Fair Lawn Jewish Center, Kol HaNeshama, Beth Shalom of Teaneck and the Bergen County High School of Jewish Studies.

A job skill training class is mandatory for all flower employees. “The whole purpose of our fundraiser is to enhance their communication skills and their job training in terms of how to maintain relationships with past or possible employers,” said Shapiro.

“What we do is offer flowers at all these sites for the holidays, and also do Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, gala dinners and dance recitals. The Bar and Bat mitzvah piece is a great way for them [the kids] to start off–to provide a great act of chesed toward someone else,” she said.

Happy customers are a big part of the program’s success. “The flowers were absolutely beautiful–I plan on using them again this coming year for Liora’s bat mitzvah, and it felt so good to know these beautiful center pieces were part of a larger mitzvah of helping others,” said Ilana Picker of Teaneck.

Flowers by J-ADD runs special sales just before Rosh Hashanah and Sukkot and at several locations also for Yom Kippur. They also run sales on many Fridays. Locations include Chabad of Tenafly, the Bergen County Y, the Kaplan JCC, Solomon Schechter, the Moriah School and the Fair Lawn Jewish Center.

J-ADD residents sell flowers on Friday or holidays, and rotate from place to place to meet new people, or they help make the flowers for the parties, said Shapiro. The money earned provides payment to the residents for their time.

“In the case of gala events and simchas, we take pictures of the event, and of the residents making the centerpieces, so people can see, and say, ‘look at the people who benefited from this donation.’ We often provide a table card, and sometimes invite our clients to come watch their flowers being arranged,” Shapiro said. “We have coaches or staff there to help them, for guidance. We play music, and it’s a very relaxed environment. It’s appropriate for what their needs are.”

Flowers by J-ADD started a number of years ago when most people with disabilities had no choice but to work in factory settings, in mass production types of work. “But this a nice, community-based job, where they get to enhance their skills on so many levels, and it’s very rewarding on both sides,” said Shapiro.

Shapiro added that the flowers come from a quality wholesale distributor in the area, and are of better quality than many grocery store florist departments. Flowers by J-ADD are guaranteed to last five days. The distributor provides the flowers at a discount and is a great partner, as they are also is called in to help out if an arrangement is required that is more elaborate than the residents are used to handling. “They do it at a discounted price and we are still able to pay the residents,” she said.

Flowers by J-ADD only publicizes through word of mouth, and does no advertising, showing that the residents’ hard work pays off. In addition to coordinating Flowers by J-ADD, Shapiro is also a community liaison in the agency. For more information, email [email protected]. You may also reach Stephanie Shapiro at 201-457-0058 ext 18.

By Elizabeth Kratz

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