HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — Amie Forrest is a gift basket-making machine, and you will often find her showcasing her talent at Celebrate Virginia. The store opened during the holiday season at Regency Square Mall and is now making a big difference in the lives of individuals who are “differently abled.”
“It’s just a gift to have my products in this store,” says Joy Elliott.
Elliott has Parkinson’s Disease and Inclusion-Body Myositis, a form of Muscular Dystrophy. She started making dog treats from fresh fruits and vegetables when her beloved pooch was sick, and now Celebrate Virginia is the home of her product Bessie’s Treats.
Elliott joins more than a dozen artists and artisans with a wide range of abilities at the marketplace. Items for sale include photographs snapped by a young man with Autism and bags designed by an individual with Down Syndrome. The shelves and displays hold many unique items.
“It is a big family, and we enjoy that aspect of it,” explains Karen Hannon, the Richmond Entrepreneur’s Assistance Program (REAP) Executive Director.
Founded in the Fall of 2011, REAP offers job training and employment to people with disabilities. Having retail space had been a vision for years, and it became a reality when Celebrate Virginia opened its doors.
It does not cost vendors anything to set up in the space, and ten-percent of sales goes directly to the program.
“There is no place for folks that are differently abled,” Elliott’s voice trails off. “We’re kind of shunned a lot of time, and this store gives us all of us an opportunity to show our products to show what we can do.”
Celebrate Virginia is hoping to expand in the coming months with more vendors and volunteers. People of all ability levels are invited to be a part of this new store with Virginia-made products.
“Hand-made, one of a kind,” Elliott describes the offerings. “It’s the best place to come shopping.”