Cleveland Grown…a phrase that takes on multiple meanings for the Evergreens Cooperative initiative.
For one worker, "I'm rising every day. Learning something new every day."
And if you’ve bought lettuce or have a loved one in a nursing home, you’ve used their services.
Their focus….create living wage jobs for low-income neighborhoods to boost the local economy.
The reality…hope for families and real-life lessons in hard work.
"Anything you want to do, you can do it if you put your mind to it."
Today, Evergreen Cooperative has 4 successful businesses: a laundromat, a greenhouse, an energy solutions company, and a business services center.
The greenhouse, known as “Green City Growers” employs people without a college degree, former immigrants, even ex-cons to work their way up from jobs like planting seeds to regulating the greenhouse water.
And Evergeen Cooperatives John McMicken says they’re not easy tasks. "A pipe breaks and you've got water spraying everywhere.. Or a valve that was supposed to open, didn't open. Or it was supposed to close, and didn't close. So somebody's got to being keeping an eye on all that so we don;t loser a crop because of some mechanical failure."
The greenhouse products go to local stores like Marcs, and they’re even waiting on a deal to go through with Wal-Mart.
It’s a similar set-up with the other co-ops…employees at the laundromat wash linens from local hospitals and nursing homes.
But the co-ops go farther than just providing a paycheck. One employee says it was the answer to a prayer.
"After I had my kids, I was asking myself how I was going to provide for them. And God blessed me with this job."
Says another, "It means a lot to me. Coming from where I come from, it keeps me busy. It keeps me out of trouble.
The initiative is always looking for more employees. To find ways to be one, visit their website for details.