Local Books: The Flower Cart Project

Wendy Elliott

New Minas writer Jim Prime has collected the 50-year history of The Flower Cart ahead of a new departure for this vital social enterprise organization. It’s important to remember the past before moving into a new era. That is what Work with Purpose: 50 years of Supported Employment and Training in the Annapolis Valley provides.

The book celebrates a community-driven history that began with the late Jean DeWolfe of Wolfville wanting a fulfilling life for her daughter, Linda, who was born with Down syndrome. She gathered some friends together in 1970. They conceived the notion of a sheltered workshop and made it happen. That was the start of building a life with purpose for adults considered to have intellectual disabilities. Prime has collected the meaningful people stories for this history: tales of lives enlarged and challenges overcome. Shawn Biggs comes to mind. He is a brain cancer survivor who had the Flower Cart’s annual award named in his honour. Staff leaders Joanne Porter and Roger Tatlock also expounded on their roles.

It was Matt Clairmont, the Flower Cart’s supported employment services co-ordinator, who came up with book concept. Clairmont, who manages the Flower Cart’s contract with Michelin, saw the anniversary coming and knew there was value in a public history. He also owns Clairmont Publishing Services.
Despite being right on Highway 1 in New Minas for five decades, the breadth of what’s accomplished at the Flower Cart is not well-known by the general public. Most folks know about the Baker’s Dozen bakery, but that’s it. Fifty years on, the Flower Cart Group does so much to offer employment and inclusion. Meanwhile the founding values remain steadfast.

The Flower Cart Group is fundraising toward a new state-of-the art purpose-built and accessible facility. It will cost an estimated $300,000 and will be huge progress for the enterprise that started in the old, wood frame New Minas school house.

The new building will house all of the services and programming currently taking place now under more than one roof. Participants and staff members will have an accessible and efficient place to work, learn, and train not far from their current location. Flower Cart board chairman and Building Opportunities co-chairperson Paul Randell and Flower Cart executive director Jeff Kelly are naturally excited for this much-anticipated development to roll out. Kelly says he’s found the book to be a fitting and accurate look at The Flower Cart. “It’s been a cause to celebrate and I have personally found it inspiring,” he said. “I have to admit over the last year, and through many drafts, I have flipped open certain sections and found the drive to continue our journey just when I needed it the most. Many people had a hand in our story, and I consider it a fitting tribute to all.”

Available online and in hard copy, Work with Purpose: 50 Years of Supported Training and Employment in the Annapolis Valley is available from Amazon.

For more information about The Flower Cart Group visit flowercart.ca