A Family Tradition: The Lucianis Give Back through the Giving Garden

March 25, 2022

A Family Tradition: The Lucianis Give Back through the Giving Garden

Sissy Luciani’s son, 30-year-old Tyler, has been a participant of the IndependenceWorks (IW) program at JF&CS since he graduated high school. A few years later, Sissy heard of the Giving Garden at IW, and a meaningful volunteer experience of more than six years began to bloom.

Having a home garden of her own with more than 1,000 tulips this year, Sissy knew she and Tyler could contribute to the growing of the Giving Garden when she first heard about it. Gardening is a long-lasting and important tradition for Sissy and her family. She was taught by her own mother how to garden, and then her mother also taught Tyler and Sissy’s other son, Drew. (Tyler and his grandmother are pictured above.)

Because of his background in gardening with his family, Tyler was able to step into the Giving Garden with confidence, helping to plant, prune, and even pick some of the produce when it was ready. Tyler and other clients then enjoyed having a chef come in and prepare meals for him and other clients with fresh vegetables. Some protocols have changed since the COVID-19 pandemic began, but the garden is still thriving.

“Tyler is not a braggart by any stretch of the imagination,” said Sissy. “But I think it was good for him to go into a situation like the Giving Garden where he felt confident about what he knew and what he could contribute. It’s a good experience for him.”

The Giving Garden helps teach clients at IW how to garden and care for fruits and vegetables, and sometimes clients can bring fresh vegetables to the clients in the Z-H ILP (Zimmerman-Horowitz Independent Living Program) homes, as well. Working in the garden encourages teamwork, socialization, and the opportunity for IW clients to learn a new and valuable skill.

Sissy mentioned that volunteering with the Giving Garden was challenging, fun, and involved a lot of meaningful work and learning experiences. It granted the opportunity for both her and the IW clients to experience teamwork, cooperation, and the chance to see hard work pay off.

“JF&CS has a great gardening system there,” Sissy said. “There are nice flower beds, and a good watering system. We went in every week to check on the plants, garden and prune when needed, and there was always a lot of planning and deciding what to grow. I learned a lot, and so did Tyler.”

Caroline Giancola, a client at IW and friends of Sissy and Tyler, and her mom, Kathy, also supported the work in the garden for the last three or four years.

The IW program, which Tyler attends twice a week, has done more for him than help nurture his green thumb. Sissy said that Tyler is very happy there and has made friends. Tyler even adjusted well when COVID struck, during which a lot of the usual activities switched over to Zoom only.

IW also helped Tyler secure a job he loves at Ace Hardware through its supported employment program. He currently works at Ace Hardware two days a week. Tyler is the first person with developmental issues that the store manager has hired, but Sissy said he is more than understanding. The manager is conscious of Tyler’s developmental limitations and works to make sure Tyler is comfortable and can perform his job as needed.

Sissy spoke passionately about the work that the IW program does for Tyler and other people like her son: “The people at IW are doing amazing work. You have a lot of dedicated and caring people there, and we are very thankful.”

To learn more about the Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Services JF&CS offers, click here. If you are seeking a rewarding career, and are interested in working with adults with disabilities, JF&CS is always recruiting Direct Support Professionals (DSPs)! Click here to learn more.