Wendie Blanchard – Arthur & Friends - 6/16/11
Today I announced my fourth NJ Hero of 2011, Wendie Blanchard. Wendie started a group called Arthur & Friends in 2008, after speaking with her nephew Arthur about the hardships of finding meaningful work for people with developmental disabilities. Arthur has Down syndrome. Wendie and Arthur came up with the idea of starting a hydroponic greenhouse, that would supply fresh produce for local farm markets and area restaurants year round, while giving Arthur and his friends more worthwhile jobs and helping them to become more productive community members. I had the chance to visit their greenhouse at the State Fair Grounds in Augusta, NJ. It was impressive to say the least! I was able to meet Arthur, other volunteers, and “Friends” that work at the greenhouse. I even had the chance to taste some of the produce… it was so fresh and delicious. This is one of 3 greenhouses currently set up in NJ and Wendie is looking to open many more. Other states, and even countries, have contacted her to see how they can replicate what she has started. She is not only giving meaningful jobs to people with disabilities, but her greenhouse in Essex County also hires ex-offenders. Wendie is helping those people on the fringe of society become more self-sufficient and productive members of their community. She has the spirit of a real NJ Hero and it was a pleasure to have the chance to name her our fourth hero of 2011. For more information on Arthur & Friends, please visit her website at: www.arthurandfriends.org.