Two West Chester mums set up a non-profit flower shop to provide meaningful work for people with developmental disabilities

To meet Elaine Scott and Colleen Brenan, co-owners of Kati Mac Floral Designs, a non-profit flower shop in West Chester. Their mission is to provide meaningful employment to people with intellectual disabilities.

• Point of Pride: “We are really proud of the fact that over 50% of our employees have special needs,” said Colleen Brennan. “It would be rare for someone to walk into our store and not see one of our employees with special needs working.”

• Petal Power: “I’m so thrilled when I see the success of someone who wasn’t so sure about the flower business and all of a sudden they can’t wait to get dressed in the morning and get to work,” said said Elaine Scott. .

If the music is pumping when you walk into Kati Mac Floral Designs in West Chester – especially if it’s a song by Luke Bryan or Keith Urban – you can bet employee Emily Scott is serving as DJ on that day. -the.

“I’m kind of a party girl,” she said. “And I love to greet people. If people have questions, I’m the person.

The atmosphere in this heavenly-smelling High Street store is so lively that employee Lily Seagraves said it rivaled her second job, as a member of staff at the Eagles’ match day event. Philadelphia welcoming fans and giving instructions.

“It’s really fun working here,” Seagraves said. “It’s awesome and amazing at the same time.”

While Kati Mac Floral Designs has been a West Chester staple for over a decade, last year it changed hands when Elaine Scott (Emily’s mother) and Colleen Brennan were given the shop to help them achieve their dream of creating a meaningful work environment. for people with intellectual disabilities.

The full-service florist now operates as a non-profit organization, with a mission to provide a positive space for people with dementia to learn, train and grow. Currently, six of the store’s 10 employees are people with Down syndrome, including Seagraves, 19, and Scott, 25.

“It means so much to me that Emily is working here, enjoying her job and finding her niche,” Elaine Scott said.

Brennan’s 15-year-old daughter Katie, who has Down’s Syndrome, is too young to work at the shop but loves to visit and go out to deliver flowers with her mother.

“She asks me all the time, ‘Are we going to the flower shop today? Can we go to the flower shop today?'” Brennan said. day.”

These two mothers – with no previous experience in the floral business – took on this adventure not only out of love for their own children, but also out of love for the ‘village’ of people they met through the Chester County Down Syndrome Interest Grouper.

“There’s no textbook, there’s no guide on how to navigate, whether it’s in school or if it’s a medical condition,” Brennan said. “The way my husband and I have always navigated life with Katie is through this community of people.”

Scott, a mother of four, started the Chester County Down Syndrome Interest Group (CCDSIG) shortly after Emily was born.

Brennan, a mother of two who met Scott through CCDSIG and eventually joined its board, became the organization’s Buddy Walk President. Under his leadership, the event was such a financial success that CCDSIG was able to accumulate savings.

Conversations started about how to make a real impact with the money they had raised. Scott often heard of parents struggling to find meaningful employment for their children with cognitive disabilities beyond stacking towels and cleaning tables.

“It’s a very random, individualized approach to finding a job,” Scott said. “Some parents use services like [the] Office of Vocational Rehabilitation or other government-funded organizations. There is often a waiting list, a lack of staff, or as I have found a long wait to see if your waiver money will fund the service.

According to the 2022 Case for Inclusion report, only 18% of adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities in Pennsylvania work alongside people without disabilities and earn market-determined wages, slightly less than the national average of 20%.

Brennan and Scott wanted to help change that.

“Lo and behold, this flower shop opened and went for sale,” Scott said. “It was the perfect situation to take that seed capital and turn it into a business and create that employment opportunity.”

The shop has had several owners during its 12 years of operation. In 2016, it was purchased by EBS Healthcare, which provides therapeutic and behavioral health services, with the intention of bringing employees with developmental disabilities to work there. Scott helped out with the business and some people volunteered in the store, but the goal of paying employees with cognitive disabilities never came to fruition and the store closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.

In January 2021, the store was gifted by EBS to Scott and Brennan, who established the Kati Mac Education Foundation, a Pennsylvania charter nonprofit that operates the business with CCDSIG as its parent group. They decided to keep the store’s recognizable name and its floral designer, Ashlee Smith, who has worked at the store for six years and helped teach Brennan and Scott the ropes.

“It’s fantastic. It was a big change, but a welcome one,” Smith said. “The employees are really fun to be around.”

The owners, who officially opened the store in June and began onboarding employees with cognitive disabilities in January, have also hired employment manager Christy Rainey, whose sole focus is helping employees with disabilities. intellectual. Rainey not only helps train employees, but is also a constant presence on the shop floor to offer support, advice and guidance.

“I’ve worked with children before, which was wonderful, but working with this community of adults is amazing,” Rainey said. “You earn their trust and that keeps them coming back.”

Each of the shop’s employees focused on specific parts of the business. Lily Seagraves is the person responsible for processing the flowers and putting them in buckets; employee Lauren Kilgore, 22, finds satisfaction in removing thorns from roses; and Emily Scott enjoys office roles.

When it comes to deliveries, Kati Mac’s has a fleet of all-volunteer drivers, from Brennan and Elaine Scott themselves, to others in their CCDSIG village, many of whom bring their children.

While much of the store’s business is weddings, right now the store is bustling with prom season and Mother’s Day orders.

As Emily Scott spoke of her own mother – whom she calls ‘my sweet love’ – she was overwhelmed with emotion.

“The reason I call her my sweet love [is] because she does so many things for me. [She] takes care of someone who has special needs in their life and… special needs are kind of part of our lives,” Emily Scott said. “Having special needs is a wonderful and beautiful feeling on the inside. How much I love it!”

Although there is a waiting list, those interested in inquiring about employment with Kati Mac can email [email protected] with the subject line “Job Application”.

Employers interested in hiring people with developmental disabilities can contact the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employer Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion or their local chapter of The Arc for more information.

Know someone in the Philadelphia area whose story is worth telling, or someone whose story you would like to know? Send suggestions for We the People profiles to Stephanie Farr at [email protected] or call her at 215-854-4225. Send tips via Twitter to @FarFarrAway.

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