'Branches to Chances' helps returning workers turn a new leaf by gardening

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Monday, October 10, 2022
'Branches to Chances' helps returning workers turn a new leaf
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For these hard-working gardeners, a second chance was all they needed to grow fruitful careers.

WILMINGTON, Delaware (WPVI) -- "I just lived in a community where I tore it up, stepped on plants, kicked on trees," said Raymond Taylor. "Now, I plant trees, I plant plants, and I love them."

Taylor grew up with a single mom in Wilmington, Delaware, and recalls how bad decisions caused him to be incarcerated more than once. But that all changed roughly 13 years ago when he devoted his life to Christ. His worldview grew even more sturdy when he became an employee with the Delaware Center for Horticulture's "Branches to Chances" program.

"I love to see what I used to destroy. Now, I can say, look what I built now," he said.

Branches to Chances launched in 2009 and has evolved into a ready-to-work program that provides education and job training. Participants range from the unemployed to formerly homeless to formerly incarcerated.

"We're introducing people to career paths in horticulture," said DCH Executive Director Vikram Krishnamurthy. "So, it's not just about a job, but it's about where people can go from here as well."

Recruitment starts in the fall and a cohort of participants is chosen around the new year. They are enrolled in classes and then put their training into practice as spring starts to bloom. Their projects range from tree plantings to public landscaping as well as beautification sites sponsored by the community.

The experience has given José Del Rio a new focus in life.

"I was an addict and you know, me being on the street, I was not a help to the community," he said. "Now, by me helping and putting plans and doing all this stuff, I feel part of the community. I feel like a normal person."

To learn more about the Delaware Center for Horticulture and its programs, visit their website.

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