By Libby Solomon•Towson Times – August 16, 2018

At Francis X. Gallagher Services in Timonium, adults with intellectual disabilities learn horticulture skills alongside Master gardeners, farmers and people from nonprofit Blue Water Baltimore. Participants in the Green Initiative learn skills like gardening and landscaping and maintain a series of gardens and greenhouses on the Gallagher Services campus.

On Monday, Aug. 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., nonprofit Gallagher Services will open that space to the community, inviting people to tour the gardens, buy native plants and watch demonstrations led by Green Initiative participants.

“We want to open this up to the community and let people know who we are and why we’re doing this,” said Brian Trees, associate administrator of Gallagher Services. “We want our folks to be present; we want people to know that this is what we do, and we’re here, we’re local.”

Gallagher Services’ mission is to help adults with intellectual disabilities “craft and shape” a meaningful life, whatever that might look like for them, said Rena Daly, a spokeswoman for Baltimore-based Catholic Charities, which owns Gallagher Services.

To fulfill that mission, the organization runs housing and employment training services for about 400 people, Trees said. The program is individualized; if someone’s idea of a meaningful life includes horseback riding, for instance, Gallagher Services will make it happen, Trees said.

The Green Initiative is a partnership between Gallagher Services and other organizations, including the neighboring St. Vincent’s Villa and Villa Maria School, which respectively serve children with emotional and behavioral challenges and learning disabilities, Daly said. Participants include Baltimore County Master Gardeners and environmental nonprofit Blue Water Baltimore.

From the greenhouse to the grounds, pollinator gardens to rain barrels, adults with intellectual disabilities who participate in the Green Initiative have the opportunity to learn horticulture hands on, said Ben Mortenson, an employment specialist with Gallagher Services who leads the program.

Mortenson said the program is both an employment training opportunity and a way to engage people in something that is fun.

“Gardening is awesome, and in a lot of ways therapeutic,” Mortenson said. “It allows them to get dirty, but also to learn.”

Visitors to the free Aug. 20 event will get to tour the program’s gardens and watch rain barrel and seed ball demonstrations. At 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., guests can tag the wings of monarch butterflies and release them, Mortenson said.

There will also be native plants from Blue Water Baltimore’s Herring Run Nursery and cut flowers for sale, he said. Snowballs will be available for purchase.

Daly said the event is a good way to reach out to the community. Many people, she said, drive past the campus at 2520 Pot Spring Road in Timonium and do not know what the organization does.