Smile Farms opens newest campus in partnership with Catholic Health

Smile Farms opens newest campus in partnership with Catholic Health
Representatives from Smile Farms and Catholic Health receive citations from local government officials at the unveiling Tuesday morning. (Photo by Cameryn Oakes)

Smile Farms unveiled its 12th campus Tuesday morning, located at Catholic Health’s Mercy Behavioral Health Center in Garden City.

Smile Farms is a nonprofit that employs adults with developmental disabilities at their 12 farm campuses throughout Long Island and the New York Metropolitan Area.

The organization was started by Jim McCann, founder and chairman of 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc. to mitigate the challenges of disabled individuals facing high rates of unemployment, including his own brother.

McCann partnered with Independent Group Living Home in Moriches, New York to open the first Smile Farms campus in 2015.

The newest campus at the behavioral health center includes five raised gardening beds that will be home to crops including lettuces, tomatoes, cucumber, herbs and garlic.

All produce grown at Smile Farms at Catholic Health will be donated to Mercy Hospital’s Family Care Program, which provides food to people who are food insecure.

The event unveiling the new campus was opened with a prayer led by Father Kevin Creagh, who blessed the garden beds to bring nourishment to their community.

Catholic Health CEO Patrick M. O’Shaughnessy said that it is exciting to unveil the garden in May as it is also Mental Health Month, pairing perfectly with the behavioral health center’s initiative of providing treatment for people with mental health conditions, mental illnesses or substance abuse issues.

The garden will be maintained by the center’s patients and O’Shaughnessy said this will help in providing patients with a great purpose. He said their efforts in the garden will assist other patients who are food insecure and will receive donations from the garden’s bounty, providing an example of patients helping out other patients.

“Today we are connecting two vital issues at the forefront of healthcare, mental health and food insecurity,” O’Shaughnessy said.

He said this campus is an example of the butterfly effect, meaning that the small actions enacted there will have resounding effects.

While Smile Farm’s main initiative has been to provide employment for people with mental disabilities, Smile Farms Managing Director Diana Martin said this will be the first campus that will include individuals with mental health conditions.

“That’s a new area for us and we are very excited to be expanding into that space,” Martin said.

She said that gardening is a gratifying and healing hobby for so many people and she is looking forward to it empowering the patients at Catholic Health to then empower others.

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