Nearly a year ago, the Arlington community was introduced to a new retail store that offers a variety of handmade goods.
While the store, Roots to Wings, offers a variety of jams, tortilla chips, dips, and farm fresh eggs as well as candles, lotions, and other handmade crafts, the store’s mission goes far beyond selling handmade goods and focuses on who is making them.
Roots to Wings is a non-profit organization with the mission of offering employment opportunities and improving the quality of life for those with disabilities.
Individuals with disabilities who work through the organization grow and harvest produce, make crafts, and package the products that are available for purchase at the store.
The non-profit was founded by special education teachers Julie Smith and Jessica Scott along with former special education teacher Sheila Monke after the group went to visit a similar organization called Farmers House in Weston, Missouri in 2014.
“These two moms had a vision of creating a store environment for their kids that had gone through the transition program and were going into the adult world and needed a place to work,” Smith said.
“It was absolutely beautiful and very heartwarming to see these kids that may otherwise be in a workshop environment or unemployable, have a job that they could be happy at and just be so excited to be able to work with a purpose and serve the public.”
Since it’s opening last year, the Roots to Wings store has expanded its offering and has furthered its mission by employing two more “farmers.”
Roots to Wings identifies individuals with disabilities that are employed through the organization as “farmers,” and now have a total of five farmers working at the organization.
“We could probably add about 35 more, but our facility is just too small to accommodate everyone who is interested,” Executive Director Linda Menking said.
Roots to Wings also offers space to local craft makers through a consignment program that now features goods from 36 consignors.
“With so many consignors we have a lot of unique, different things for people to enjoy,” Menking said.
consignors are contracted by Roots to Wings and receive a 70/30 split with the organization on monthly sales at the store. Farmers receive a percentage of every sale for every item they make in the store, while the remaining proceeds go back into the organization.
According to Menking, over the last year Roots to Wings farmers have accomplished a lot including planting and harvesting a successful vegetable garden and holding a farmer’s market to sell the produce.
“One of our big successes last year was our garden, people donated extra vegetable and we had our farmers market which turned out great,” she said. “We just planted potatoes on Wednesday, so we have one thing in so far this year. Considering the recent weather, that’s a pretty good start I think.”
Roots to Wings also partnered with Arlington Public Schools and has been hosting students from Doug Hart’s Best Practices in Teaching class.
Every Wednesday two students from the class come to the Roots to Wings store and work with farmers to create a special craft.
“This last week we made pallet coasters out of popsicle sticks and those will be sold in the store,” Menking said. “We really try to partner with as many people as we can, and they have been more than generous to help us out.”
As a way to celebrate the Roots to Wings store’s first year of operation, the organization will be holding an open house event on May 5 from 9-1 p.m.
“WE just want people to come visit the store and we will have cookies, coffee and lemonade,” Menking said. “Most of the farmers will be there as well, so people will have a chance to meet and talk with them.”
The Roots to Wings store is located at 315 West Eagle Street, Suite West in Arlington and more information about the organization can be found online at www.rootstowingsmidwest.org.