So Many ‘Hats’….

So Many ‘Hats’….

I first met Bonnie at a green market a few years ago.  For many reasons — the kids, the candles, the aromas — I was drawn to the booth, but after walking away, the impression that stayed with me most was the passion and enthusiasm of Bonnie.

I was unsure of her role.  Yes, she is Jessica’s mom and founder of ScentsAbility, but I noticed even back then that she was so much more, and I’ve never seen it so vividly as last week.

It was an extra busy day in the shop;  we were finishing an order of 650 candles for a JARC event.  Bonnie, as usual, was alternating between managing phone calls and emails and overseeing the candle-making process.  These jobs were interrupted by her role as surrogate mom as a few of the crew needed help preparing their lunches.  Minutes later, the manager job of Bonnie manifested itself as a contact from FAU came in to discuss upcoming events and shortly thereafter two ladies came to select candles for possible private labeling.

By that point I’d lost count of the roles she had already played, when a phone call came in;  one of our chandler’s dads had an emergency and she would need a ride home.  Seconds later another of our crew needed help regulating her insulin and another exhibited stomach pains.   So….new ‘hats’ of crisis manager, social worker, nurse and friend emerged.

A little after 6:00 most of the crew had been picked up, the last batch of candles was drying, and it was time to go home.  As I left, however, I looked back, and there was Bonnie, still scheduling events and personnel and returning phone calls, before going home.

And, by the way, if you are reading this blog, I managed to get it posted before her modest humility suggested I not do so.

Summer Blues? Not at ScentsAbility….

Summer Blues?  Not at ScentsAbility….

This is my fifth summer with ScentsAbility and as with most businesses, summers tend to be slow.  And although there are no outdoor events due to the heat, no fundraisers due to vacations and wayward snowbirds, and no school events, it has still been a very productive, busy summer.

This summer has allowed time for launching new products and ideas for this evolving business.  We spent several afternoons working on the measurements and routine for making our new ScentMe Rollerballs, delightful combinations of essential oils blended with coconut oil.   Choosing the right blend can help soothe, energize, heal, or even keep bugs away.  In combination with our natural oils, BodySilk lotion, and Happy Hands sanitizers, our line of body products continues to grow.

Kim perfects her technique, adding scent, blending and capping our new ScentMe Rollerballs.

Other days were spent tweaking ideas and procedures for what we hope to be an exciting fall kickoff for our parties.  Just last week the staff made the initial batches of gel candles.  We all found it fun, choosing colorful sand, tiny shells, miniature glass critters or simply shapes to add to the clear jars.  After just a short time, we all delighted in our gel candles, peeking at the tiny worlds inside each.

Shaun shows off his miniature gel world. The stick holds the wick straight until the gel is set.

We then had our kids experiment with making ‘stinky paper’  hanging air fresheners, trying to develop the best process to paint and scent this new product.  They created everything from Tasha’s geometrically painted apple, Katie’s hearts and flowers apple, to Carmen’s birdhouse.  With the addition of a pleasant fragrance, the first delightfully ‘stinky’ deodorizers were ready to be hung in cars, closets, and bedrooms.

After completing her stinky paper air freshener, Katie supervises her mom in creating hers.  They were visiting for the day from Palm Beach.

So it’s barely mid-July, and what we thought would be a quiet summer has already proven to be quite productive.  We look forward to sharing these new products and ideas soon with our friends; keep checking our webpage for upcoming details.

A Quirky Crew….

A Quirky Crew….

A few weeks ago I wrote about the unique language that our chandlers have, making each day a bit more special.  That being said, I can hardly ignore that like all of us, they each have their clever, yet lovable, little quirks as well.

One of my favorites is Kim’s love of socks.  On any given day she could be wearing knee socks with hearts, geometric patterns, holiday images, Disney characters or sports teams.
Khari has his assortment of accessories:  often a heavy, magnetic neck chain, an oversized watch or a new case for his phone. And let’s not forget that he comes fully equipped with chewing gum for himself and anybody who wants to share it.  For Billy it is all about hats, most often representing a sports team.

Khari stirs wax, showing off a few of his favorite accessories.

For others it is not an item, but a habit.  If you hear singing coming from the bathroom, it is probably Kornti, complete with headsets and CD player.  And it’s not unusual for her to start twerking at any moment, a brief interruption to whatever job she might be doing.

If you hear a timid sneeze, it is likely Jessica.  Her ‘fake sneezes’ are her signature way of letting us all know she’s around.  And if you want to know anything about Lady Liberty, just ask her, and she will likely be wearing at least one of many pieces of jewelry representing her favorite landmark.

More often than not Lexy will either be drawing in Romero Britto style or copying a list of Justin Bieber songs from her phone, while Jamie likes to make lists of just about anything. Last week it was names of chandlers going to Orlando; before that it was a list of all the candle scents.  We all envy his seriously neat penmanship.

And one little quirk shared by all:  their belief that sitting down on the job for frequent breaks is absolutely essential.

I could go on…and on… sharing endearing habits about food, movies, games, even singing in the car.  But let’s save that for a later blog…

A Family Affair….

A Family Affair….

They had been anticipating the Orlando trip for months:  counting down the days, laying out their clothes, rearranging work schedules and just simply getting excited.  It was the annual trip to the Family Cafe in Orlando, and the chandlers could barely wait until the day arrived.

The boys left on Thursday with John to get there a day ahead to set up the booths, and the girls piled into two cars Friday morning to arrive just in time to get the booth running.  When I saw the over-sized suitcases and the necessary tables and products ready to be loaded into the cars, I could not visualize how everything and everybody could fit, but they did, and their experiences exceeded all expectations.

The main focus of this annual event is to provide a place for thousands of individuals with disabilities and their families to connect, sharing information and products.  And, of course, the ScentsAbility booth, especially the Magic Candles section, was a main attraction.

Nevertheless, the take-away for the crew was less about their booth and more about other facets of the convention.  Jessica’s favorite part of the weekend was riding an adult two-seater tricycle, allowing her the freedom (with a friend helping to pedal) of cruising around the neighborhood.  Of course, they’re figuring out how to purchase one to use at home.  Shaun was impressed with all the service dogs and with the small TV that was part of the hotel’s bathroom mirror.  Billy, Khari and Michael were regulars at the Beeline Diner, which was open 24 hours.  And on Friday night the entire crew went to Pizza Hut to celebrate Kim’s birthday.

The highlight of the weekend was the dance, where hundreds of young adults with various disabilities danced the night away.  The evening was hosted by Chef Guido, the event’s mascot, while a Storm Trooper, Spiderman, Superman, Super Girl, and Anna from ‘Frozen”  joined the dancers.

And although I enjoyed their first-hand reports after they returned home, nothing convinced me more about the success of the weekend than their smiles in the videos of them all dressed up, dancing and just having a grand time with hundreds of young adults coming together as family for a common cause.

Boys’ Day at the Shoppe….

Boys’ Day at the Shoppe….

We are all creatures of habit, and my usual days at the shoppe are Tuesdays and Thursdays, but occasionally I enjoy stopping by on a Wednesday.

The crew is very different that day because Billy, Michael, and Khari work at an elevator company on my usual days, so Wednesday has become boys’ day at the shoppe — even though there are usually a few gals around as well.

The differences are immediately obvious.  Khari is always front and center with high fives and a loud, “Linda, I missed you.”   I’m not sure the boy ever sits down.  Billy is generally at the table, and I usually get a current update on his favorite sports teams and mine.  Michael is less predictable, but I know he will have a story.  He’ll either be telling me about the most recent sales event, his Special Olympics accomplishments, or his weekend adventures.

But what stands out most is the noise level.  My years in the classroom taught me that no group is louder than a bunch of girls, but these guys have changed my mind.  No matter the topic, each seems to want to talk louder than the other.  Their laughing is frequent — and very difficult to talk over.  It is also contagious.  An educated guess tells me that perhaps their lunches together at Pizza Time before coming to the shoppe put them on a carb high, or more simply, perhaps it’s just their obvious camaraderie.

Billy stirs wax to make candles for a special order.

But the work still gets done;  Billy’s favorite job is wicking or stirring, while Michael likes to work with wax.  Khari is up for anything, but can always be relied on to be in motion, whether taking out the garbage or just checking up on everybody.

So Wednesdays have become a welcome change to my routine; perhaps I should join the boys more often.

Makes Scents….Right?

Makes Scents….Right?

As a long time high school English teacher, I thought I had a pretty good command of the language, but the ScentsAbility gang has taught me quite a few vocabulary lessons.  They often use words and phrases that only they understand, but I soon realized their playfulness with the English language makes complete sense.

For instance, a former chandler, Leslie, loved to compare scents; however, occasionally she would smell a few candles and decide there was absolutely no ‘snifference’ between them.  The word has caught on.

And once or twice a month Kim and Jamie remind me that it is time to pour ‘hanitizer.”  This confused me at first, but I figured it out as I glanced at the hand sanitizer work area.  I should have known!   Similarly Kortni enjoys making ‘crochets.”  Knowing that we do not create yarn products at the shoppe, I eventually realized she was referring to our sachets, better know as Scent Rocks.

Kortni Malortni filling up ‘crochet’ bags.

And just when I thought I knew everyone at the shoppe by name, I heard stories about Johnny Boy and Daddy Becker;  who are they?  Apparently, ‘they’ are John, the IT director.  And when the staff started giggling about Barney and Bernice going with them to Lando, I was lost.  I soon learned they are Jessica’s mom Bonnie and Lexy’s mom Denise, who would be on the Orlando trip with them next week.  Who knew!

And then there’s the staff.  It took me a while to figure out that Onion Boy is Khari,  Drewski Maluski is Drew,  Kortni Malortni and Courtney Cox are both Kortni,  Carmen San Diego is, of course, Carmen, the Foreman is Shaun, and Jessica and Michael call each other Honey Bunches of Oats.

Okay,  I thought I had it all straight – until yesterday.  Lexy kept calling me Linda Pinda, and  Jessica called from her storeroom/office, “Hey, Second Linda, do you need me to stir?”  So now this Linda, aka AfterLinda, now has yet a few more names.  I’m getting used to it.   It all makes scents, right?  (Or is it sense)?

Jessica fills up Scent Rocks sachets

 

Shaun’s Birthday Bash….

Shaun’s Birthday Bash….

What do you get when you combine three lanes of bowling, lots of competition, chicken wings, pizza, music, cake, laser lights and a horse’s head.  Well, this weekend, it was Shaun’s birthday party at Sawgrass Lanes.

Shaun opens his birthday cards as Lexy and Kortni look on.

Watching our ScentsAbility group bowling was a great way to spend an evening.  Competition was fierce — all in fun, of course — as each bowler exhibited his or her own unique style.  What first caught my attention was Khari.  Having the use of only one arm, Khari somewhat resembled a left-handed baseball pitcher as he quickly slung the ball down the lane.  Lexy, on the other hand, had a very deliberate technique as she swung the ball back and forth, stared it down, pointed ahead, then slowly inched toward the foul line and released.  Her routine continued with gestures and vocals as the ball creeped down the lane.

Shaun scored over 100 points with a rather serious approach;  when I asked him where he had learned to bowl, he replied that he used to bowl as a youngster and practices his swing with a computer bowling game.  Drew and Michael are experienced bowlers, having competed in Special Olympics Bowling, so they seemed quite professional, drawing lots of high fives with every spare and strike.

And then, out of nowhere came a man with a horse head:  he grabbed a bowling ball, threw it down the lane, got a spare, and then posed for pictures with the crowd.

The ScentsAbility crew poses with a strange horse head creature.

The evening ended with cake as Shaun opened an assortment of birthday cards, most with much appreciated money and gift cards.  Happy 40th Birthday to Shaun; we are all so glad to have been a part of the celebration.

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.