CHILLICOTHE, Ill. (WMBD) — In 2019, 80 percent of adults with disabilities were unemployed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now, a Chillicothe woman is trying to change that statistic and increase accessibility for all.

Laura Sniff said she and her husband opened Blue Ridge Community Farm in Chillicothe 18 years ago for their son Jimmy who has autism and cognitive impairment.

It’s a non-profit organization where children and adults with special needs can learn skills, make art, and be a part of a community.

“People just look at the disability, but behind that disability is just amazing abilities,” said Sniff.

Now, Sniff is looking to expand and said she needs help to make it happen.

“Everyone needs a chance. Everyone needs a chance,” said Stephanie Farris, co-owner and manager of Picket Fence Floral & Garden Center in Chillicothe.

Sniff said she’s going to buy Picket Fence Floral & Garden Center in January 2021.

“We’ll slowly start bringing in adults with disabilites to work throughout and to train here. And what’s awesome is that the current staff all want to stay and work alongside them,” said Sniff.

Sniff wants to create jobs and close a gap in the 80 percent of adults with disabilities who are unemployed. She’s also hoping to expand Picket Fence’s gift shop and feature crafts from people wit special needs from across the country.

It’s a mission Picket Fence manager and co-owner Stephanie Farris supports.

“They need a place to belong and to feel like they can contribute and to find success and self-esteem,” said Farris.

She’s hired both Chrissy and Mason, two employees with disabilities, and has given a chance to many young adults with disabilities over the years. During her interview with WMBD, Farris was moved to tears talking about their work ethic.

“They bring happiness with them and this joy of just being able to work and it actually is very humbling for all of us to work side by side with them,” said Farris.

Sniff said to make this dream a reality, they’re raising money to buy Picket Fence.

“Every donation helps from a dollar to we can do big sponsorships too,” said Sniff.

She said it’s an exciting endeavor and gives families that have children with disabilities hope for their kid’s futures too.

Blue Ridge Community Farm is accepting donations and sponsorships for its Picket Fence Project fundraiser. People can find details on sponsorship levels here and donate online here.

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