Projects with a Purpose in Waterloo

Linda, a HSS client, shows off her side table. With Farm Girl Finds staff, Linda refurbished the piece, making it into something truly one-of-a-kind.

Farm Girl Finds and Human Support Services have joined forces this year to give HSS clients the opportunity to refurbish furniture from start to finish.

On Friday, the three HSS clients delivered their finished products, each client having put their creativity into a small table. By Monday morning, all three pieces were sold – with all proceeds going back to HSS. 

“The community wrapped their arms around it and loved it,” Farm Girl Finds owner Lisa Maurer said. 

HSS and Farm Girl Finds, both located in Waterloo, are working together as part of HSS’s Projects with a Purpose initiative, which matches HSS’s Community Day Services clients with local businesses that can teach them skills.

“The clients who are a part of HSS’ Community Day Services program are adults aged 18 and over who have intellectual and developmental disabilities,” HSS Executive Director Anne Riley explained. “The mission statement of HSS is ‘Helping All People Live Their Best Lives.’  We work hard to help our clients achieve their goals and dreams, particularly in the areas of employment and community integration.  Having partners like Farm Girl Finds, who believe in our mission and provide opportunities for exploration, is critical.”

Maurer said the partnership started when Michele Bowen, HSS’s Director of Community Day Services Program, visited the shop with a few clients. After seeing how much interest HSS clients had in the process, they decided it was time to let clients take on projects of their own.

“They asked if they could bring some clients in and tour my shop and just show them what I have to offer,” Maurer said. “So, they came in one day and I gave them a paint brush and had a piece of furniture sitting there. They seemed to thoroughly enjoy the painting – they were excited about it and took turns and everything – so we explored the option of showing clients how to paint the furniture and then selling it in my shop.” 

In the span of 1.5 months, three clients picked out a small table to refinish, did all the prep work including sanding, painted it a color of their choice, used wax to bring out the finer details of their masterpiece and then finally measured and priced their finished product. 

As Bowen noted, the clients “participated in all aspects of the business.” 

Maurer and two of her staffers visited HSS every Wednesday to work on the projects with clients. 

“HSS clients in the Community Day Services program have taken to this opportunity like they have many others – with so much enthusiasm and commitment,” Bowen said. “They are so proud of the new skills they have learned and the friendships they have begun with Farm Girl Finds.” 

Maurer said the clients’ love for the project was always evident from their smiles and willingness to work. 

“I was amazed at how much they enjoyed it,” Maurer said. “They stuck with it and were waiting for us to get there each week. They were genuinely excited to see us and to do the project, so it’s been an amazing experience.” 

She noted working with these three talented clients was equally rewarding for the Farm Girl Finds team. 

“I’m telling you, we get more out of it than they do because we usually get a hug and a high-five, it’s just an amazing experience,” Maurer said. “My staff really enjoys going with me to do this. We get to know them a little bit more personally, it’s just fun.” 

All profits from the tables, which retailed between $85 and $125 each, went back to HSS. Riley said each client is paid for the time they devoted to the project and remaining funds will go to similar experiences where HSS clients work and learn new skills. 

Soon, Farm Girl Finds will be retailing handmade air fresheners and soaps. Just like with the furniture project, HSS clients will be engaging with community artists and leaders to make these goodies, and all profits will go to HSS. The clients decided to brand these products SeeMore Goods. 

In approximately a week, Farm Girl Finds will continue the furniture project with three new clients. 

Maurer encourages other local businesses to aid HSS in their goal to help clients achieve their best lives through learning opportunities. 

“They’re a part of our community and it’s always great to give back to people,” Maurer said. “Honestly, these (clients) are near and dear to my heart because I have an older brother in a similar situation. I think any time we can help people learn life skills like this, it’s better for everyone in the community.” 

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