Cooking at the Shoppe….

Cooking at the Shoppe….

Something was different when I walked into the shoppe the other day.  As usual it smelled delightful, but not the typical blend of candle fragrances: instead, the homey aroma of lunch being prepared greeted me.

You see, we have a new volunteer, Joanne, another retired teacher, who knew several of our chandlers from over a decade ago.  She had been their culinary arts teacher at Atlantic Vocational Technical Center, so it was a unanimous decision that cooking be added to the ScentsAbility curriculum..

First on the menu was chicken salad. The chefs-in-training were instructed in the basics of sanitation, using aprons and gloves, and then they all pitched in to shred a rotisserie chicken.  They reinforced skills such as following a recipe, measuring ingredients, chopping, slicing and mixing.  The result: a delicious plate of chicken salad on pita.

Lexy washes lettuce to be topped with tuna salad or used in the sandwiches.

Next on the menu was tuna salad.  I watched Shaun and Kim mastering knife techniques as they chopped celery while Lexy washed the rest of the ingredients.  Soon a delightful plate of tuna salad topped with an ornamental tomato became lunch for some, while a few others took their plates home for dinner.

Yesterday the chandlers made individual pizzas while Jessica sang her impromptu song of “We’re cooking at the shoppe,” and others were anxiously discussing possibilities for future meals.

Drew tops his personal pizza.

Obviously our main activities revolve around creating our scent products, but food prep has become a welcome diversion. Clearly the main advantage of this new activity is learning useful skills on their journeys to independence, but for now it also provides the camaraderie of preparing a wonderful lunch together and sharing food they have prepared themselves.

Quite an Honor….

Quite an Honor….

Unfortunately circumstances prevented my joining nine ScentsAbility chandlers and a few parents as they packed luggage, candles, banners, and tables into three vehicles and headed to St Petersburg, FL.

Their main purpose was to be introduced to members of the National Candle Association, who presented them with an award for outstanding achievement and an Evergreen Membership in this prestigious organization.

After a short speech by Bonnie, the director of ScentsAbility, and brief words from a few of our crew at the opening ceremony, they were honored with a standing ovation.  Shortly afterwards,  a different kind of fun began as they set up a booth to display and sell their candles amongst a plethora of candle makers and suppliers including such recognizable names as Yankee Candle and Anchor Hocking.

Not only did the team sell candles, they also circulated and made connections, a task at which they excel.  Their vivacious personalities enamored everybody, and the result was an impressive number of contacts, most promising assistance with free or discounted supplies such as wicks, jars, waxes, scents and even an automatic labeling machine.

Upon their return, I asked team members what their favorite experience was.  Some said it was the closing event at the pool where they danced with old friends and new, sociaized, and had their caricatures drawn.  A few others were especially excited about the ‘free stuff’ they came home with, including flash lights, phone chargers, sunglasses and insulated lunch bags.

But no matter what the take away was for each ScentsAbility member, it was a memorable adventure, and one they are already making plans to attend next year at the NCA annual convention in Weston.

WE’RE STILL HERE…REALLY!

If you’ve tried to access our FaceBook page within the past few days, you’ve probably encountered a cryptic message about the inaccessibility of that page.

We’re not yet sure where it is or how to retrieve it, but it is gone, and our social media company, Main Street Hub, is working to get it back up as soon as possible.  It seems it was lost in their efforts to merge our old page with our current page, which would combine our followers and direct them to the most recent postings.

This is serious on so many levels.  We have an avid following and we’re sure they’re wondering what has happened. Equally important, however, is the reality that for our staff, FaceBook is their connection to each other, to ScentsAbility itself.  It is their pastime when they are not together. They thrive on looking at current postings as well as reminiscing about their history as documented online.  For them it is a personal loss.

So perhaps you can help.  We have reached out to every media contact we know of asking for help.  We have tried to contact anybody and everybody at FaceBook that could possibly help, including Mark Zuckerberg.  Main Street Hub tells us that only FB tools can resolve the problem, so if you have any connections, if you know anybody, anywhere, any way, who can help, please do what you can to help us.

We miss you…. but we are still here.

That’s Our Michael….

That’s Our Michael….

What’s not to love about Michael??  Not a thing!  For Michael himself truly loves everything.

Most obviously he loves an audience. When given the opportunity, Michael is front and center, speaking about how ScentsAbility has changed his life.   He’s our spokesperson extraordinaire.

He loves the events. It was Michael who lured me to their booth at a Green Market 4 years ago as he showed me a candle he knew I’d like – my first meeting with this precious crew.

Michael's favorite task is anything having to do with soy. Here he prepares to chunk up some soy chips before putting them into the burner.

Michael’s favorite task is anything having to do with soy. Here he prepares to chunk up some soy chips before putting them into the burner.

He loves to sing.  If there are musicians at an event, Michael will take the microphone and join in!  And he’s quite a good singer.  He especially enjoyed singing with the Rodeo Clowns country group at a JAFCO event and is already rehearsing to sing at our next fundraiser in Weston in December.

And he loves Jessica. They are ScentsAbility’s storybook couple;  they even attended a Tim Tebow sponsored prom last spring.

And clearly Michael loves everything about ScentsAbility. It is his family when he’s not with his own family.  It is his social outlet as he and the other guys do lunch at Pizza Time. It’s where he sees his ‘Honey’ several teams times a week.  And it’s where Michael is loved by us all  — for so many reasons.

Frozen Sisters….

Frozen Sisters….

They call themselves the Frozen Sisters, based not only on their love for the movie Frozen, but also on their love for each other — four girls from from different backgrounds with a common purpose.  Their bond is obvious, but their long range goal is not just friendship or working at the candle shoppe, but becoming as independent as possible.

They come from entirely different backgrounds.  Jessica and Kim met years ago while still in high school.  Although they attended different schools, they met at Atlantic Vocational School in a cooking class.  The first time I met them — nearly ten years after they completed high school – they told me about that class, clearly a fond memory.

Kortni was invited to join ScentsAbility four years ago after they got to know her through Special Olympics bowling.  Bonnie sensed that her independent, outgoing nature would blend well with the group.   She was right, and the threesome seems to have a language all their own.  It takes just a glance to set off giggles that only they understand.

Lexy is the newest member of the Sisters, thanks to her dad buying a candle from the team at an event and sharing the experience with Lexy and her mom. After only a few visits to the shop last fall, she knew that ScentsAbility would fill the void that her recent high school completion had left.

Although these fab four make up the core of Frozen Sisters, they welcome all the gals who work at the shop into their Sisterhood.  It is a tight bond; I am sure they will never ‘let it go.’

The ScentsAbility Experience….

The ScentsAbility Experience….

We don’t get much foot traffic at the candle shoppe on Sample Rd.  It’s a bit hidden, and the majority of our sales are online and at events.  But every time a guest finds us, we witness a unique yet rather predictable experience.

The other day we welcomed a lady whom Carmen had just met a few evenings ago at a neighborhood gathering.  Claudia was so impressed with Carmen’s stories about candles, friends, and her job at the shoppe that she decided to visit us.

The typical pattern begins as visitors express wonder at the enticing combination of scents in the air.  Next generally comes a comment about how surprised they are with the displays, variety, and professional quality of our products.  Soon our new visitors meet each of our chandlers and become enamored by their individual yet welcoming personalities, hugs, handshakes and smiles.

And soon they are choosing scents, usually recommended by one or more of our team, touring the factory, watching our chandlers work, socializing and enjoying what has become lovingly dubbed “The ScentsAbility Experience.”   Indeed, each guest, no matter his or her purpose, is unique, yet we never tire of marveling at their similar reactions as they check out with smiles, compliments and promises to return to see us again.

So if you’ve not yet visited our shop, please stop by and see what the Scentsability Experience is all about…….

Simply Jessica….

Simply Jessica….

If you know ScentsAbility, you know Jessica.  Her smile and her “Welcome to my candle shoppe”  greeting and hug make everyone who walks through the door feel welcome.

The opening of her candle factory on Sample Road five years ago, after making candles in her garage for four years, was the culmination of her love of candles and a big step on her journey toward independence.

Her daily tasks vary, depending on the needs of the day — or simply depending on her whims.

On Mondays, when the crew is seldom there, it is cleaning day, and dusting the shelves is her favorite job.  On busier days, when the shop is filled with chandlers (candle makers), she is most often the social butterfly, chatting as she stirs the scents into the soy, assembles the wicks, or helps stock the shelves.

And occasionally she simply prefers to ‘do her thing’, which usually means spending a little quiet time on the couch in her office/storage room, watching a video on her tablet.

But no matter what she is doing, the little things matter — whether it’s the color of my lipstick, the pink streaks in her hair, a reminder that it’s Taco Tuesday, a list of the evening’s TV viewing, or an update on Sammy her cat.  And watching Jessica smile and simply be Jessica, I am constantly reminded that indeed, it should always be the little things that matter most.

A Colorful Day….

A Colorful Day….

One can’t help but notice the recent trend in coloring, not the usual kid coloring, but adult coloring. Every bookstore and grocery store has shelves of these ‘adult coloring books’.

But coloring is nothing new to our own ‘kids’ at ScentsAbility. And they certainly do not need special books. I must admit I look forward to days that are not too busy and the girls have time to color. Sadly the boys are generally not interested.

Their styles differ. Kim is the meticulous one, putting an almost mosaic-like pattern on every item colored. Carmen’s work is quite traditional (except for a penchant for coloring Mickey Mouse green). Jessica is much more creative; anything can be any color — of course! Kortni always fills her pages with hearts and personal messages, and for reasons known only to her, the heads of her people are always squares. Lexy and Jessica had a recent opportunity to meet famed artist Romero Britto, and since then Lexy has patterned her work after his vibrant style.

I must admit I am rather jealous. After all, who doesn’t love a world where dogs can be purple, turtles striped, and flowers grow larger than the houses behind them: a world where the sun dominates the sky, the animals are all cute and gentle, and Disney characters abound. I often wish I could escape to that unique, colorful world if only for an afternoon. Perhaps we should all try!!

She’s Back….

She’s Back….

We missed Carmen. Due to complicated circumstances after her mother’s sudden passing over a year ago, Carmen was unable to make it to the candle shoppe for a while. We spoke with her and Tony, her dad, on the phone occasionally, but we dearly missed her presence.

Then one day a few weeks ago, I walked into the shoppe and heard a deep, rather loud but familiar laugh, and I knew Carmen was back. I had been a bit apprehensive about the ease of her return. A few friends of hers had moved on, new chandlers were regulars, and a remodeling had changed the familiar layout and work areas of ScentsAbility.

Fortunately my concerns were unfounded. Carmen was back, and it was as though time had stood still in so many ways. There she was, meeting new friends, socializing with familiar faces, talking about her ‘boyfriend’ Prince, coloring diligently and volunteering to stir scent into the soy, but best of all — laughing.

As expected, there were a few tearful moments as we all reminisced about her mom, Nancy, who had been a fixture in the shoppe in her own way, but time has allowed those memories to become sweet as they blended with Carmen’s sheer joy — she was back with her ScentsAbility family.

Kortni On a Shelf….

Kortni On a Shelf….

What happens when you mix the traditions and expertise of a 5th generation candlemaker with modern technology?  You get a very special day at ScentsAbility.

William and Isabella Muench, who operated a century-old, family-owned candle factory in Mexico City, recently visited our candle factory.  They observed our volunteers making candles, offering tips and techniques to make their jobs easier and more efficient.

Yet as much as we were all enamored with this couple, who had just that morning flown in from Dallas, they seemed equally impressed, not only with the quality of our candles, but also with an iPad which occupied a place on the shelf overlooking the pouring table.

You see, ScentsAbility is not only about intellectually challenged young adults making professional quality candles, but also about an endearing group of young adults who have become so close that even when one of the members moved 90 miles away, her friends found a way to include her in this and so many other moments at ScentsAbility.

So there was Kortni – on the shelf – via iPad – observing and participating in this event at ScentsAbility, giving long distance ‘thumbs ups”, smiles and thanks to our guests from Dallas.  And William and Isabella smiled and gestured right back at her, a wonderful testament to tradition, good friends new and old, and technology.