Nonprofit using herb-infused soaps to provide work for Orlando area disabled community

People living with disabilities create Blossom Artisanal soaps

By Carolina Cardona - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - For more than 50 years, nonprofit Quest Inc. has been helping Central Florida residents living with disabilities by providing them with employment opportunities.

"We help people work in the community, so we call that supportive employment where they'll have a job coach that will help them perform to a high level of satisfaction and quality," Quest Inc. President John Gill said.

Among those employed is 18-year-old Nathan. 

"It's been really interesting and it's also helped me help the community. It's been teaching me life skills for when I get older and also it helps me in marketing if I get a job," the 18-year-old said. He helps out with quality control and creating spreadsheets for the organization's latest venture.

Quest Inc. is not only providing employment for people with disabilities.

"It can be anything from getting an education to actual working to actually living in the community or living with us," Gill said. "We help all ages, all stages, so our youngest client is 12 months old in one of our autism centers and our oldest is around 80 and has lived with us for about 35 or 40 years."

The nonprofit also provides group homes for individuals with developmental disabilities or that have various levels of behaviors and cognitive issues.

"Individuals there are medically fragile and have a developmental disability, so they may not be ambulatory -- meaning they may not walk," Gill said.

Last year, Quest Inc. opened the doors to the first Orlando area housing complex for people with disabilities called Quest Village where homes are specifically designed to cater to their needs.

And this year, they started a new project called Blossom. Workers pick herbs planted at the organization's training facility in Orlando and fuse them into handmade soaps.

"One of our front line staff members started planting some herbs in the garden to keep the pests away and she came to us and said, 'Hey, I think it'd be cool if I take these herbs and make a soap -- just kind of a fun activity in our arts program,'" Rob Cage, vice president of client advancement and skill development said.

Herbs like lavender, rosemary and thyme are part of the ingredients for the six different scented soaps sold at local stores and online.

"We have started our own business so Blossom is one of those social enterprises that's run, maintained all for our individuals to have job opportunities," Cage said. "Our goal at Quest is to find community employment for as many individuals that are interested in work as possible."

An opportunity that's giving Tamy a sense of independence.

"I actually enjoy making the soap. I think it makes me feel more happier and actually making my own paycheck," she said.

To purchase Blossom Artisanal soaps visit shopblossom.org. To find out more about Quest Inc., click here.

Editor's note: News 6 was asked not to use the last names of several Quest Inc. employees interviewed for this story.

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