The people who Roots to Wings support have been called on to adapt to their own unique circumstances, as well as trying to understand the challenges of closures due to the coronavirus.
The farmers were supposed to return in March, but that was delayed. However, the farmers are back and creating things for the store.
Farmer Anna Ross said she was missing everyone.
“I was so used to the routine of coming here in March and seeing everybody,” she said.
Anna has a few favorite projects, including painting and sewing and making earrings. She is a consigner in the store.
“I love being part of it because I can do stuff I’ve never done before,” said Ross, who joined Roots to Wings after graduating from Fremont High School.
While the farmers are happy to have returned to work, they couldn't have come back any sooner.
“We are being cautious and learning to live with it rather than waiting for it to go away,” new Program Director Brooke Carter said. “We've adapted to ways to do it because we don't know how long it's going to last or another outbreak.”
Executive Director Trish Kyllo said Carter has already accomplished much in her time with Roots to Wings.
“She has been such an asset organizing farmer projects and schedules to keep within CDC guidelines and has already accomplished so much for Roots to Wings,” Kyllo said.
The farmers are able to be in the Roots to Wings garage working on projects at a social distance, which means only a few of the farmers can come each day they are open.
“The coronavirus has had an impact but we have a great community,” Carter said. “We could get more done if we didn't have the limits, but we've done a good job of keeping it going. We can still sell stuff virtually, still garden and still make projects.”
Carter said she has worked in special education since high school. This job came about after crossing paths with co-founder Sheila Monke.
“I’ve been waiting for this and took a leap of faith,” Carter said. “It’s what I wanted and somehow it went through. I’ve been taking college classes in public speaking and education.”
Monke has served in the program director role for the past two years.
“I wanted to hire someone who can be here five days a week so they can offer more variety and partnering with other agencies,” Monke said. “We are willing to offer it to more people and everyone is so unique in in their ability and skill level and desire to work.”
Carter came to know and learn from Tami Huff, a special education teacher in Blair, who works with special education students and is retiring this year. Carter also worked with special education students at Arlington Elementary School.
“She took me under her wing,” Carter said. “I saw the love and happiness of the students. They are pushing through.”
Carter said she was drawn to this work and has the desire to give the farmers the extra push they need outside of education.
“The word is getting out about Roots to Wings,” she said. “It’s busy when everyone is here. We are supposed to be a steppingstone for the farmers and we want to get them towards their dream job and getting employed.”
Carter has plans for the nonprofit organization.
“I’m working on the scheduling, projects and inventory in the garage,” she said. “My goal is to get to know the farmers really well and create an individual service plan for them. Where do they want to go? What do they want to do? I want to individualize everything weekly to make it beneficial for them.”
Carter also wants make sure the Right to Work program is solid.
“I feel if I have a better understanding of the farmers and what they want and families want, what they are good at, and what skills they want to improve, it will help me schedule everyone better,” she said.