At first glance, ScentsAbility appears to be just like any other candle shop. Heavenly scents permeate the air and shelves are adorned with a rainbow of multi-colored candle jars, essential oils, lotions, and air fresheners. What’s different about ScentsAbility is that every candle is specially made by an employee with an intellectual developmental disability (IDD).
Founded in 2007, ScentsAbility is an organization in Coral Springs, Florida, dedicated to providing individuals with special needs with the tools to become self-sufficient in the workforce.
I had the pleasure of meeting ScentsAbility’s Founder and Director Bonnie Schmidt, who was inspired to start a business where her daughter, Jessica, who has intellectual disabilities, could succeed in.
The answer came unexpectedly one night when Jessica’s enthusiasm for scented candles led her father to bring home a candle-making kit. Slowly but surely, Jessica and her friends began making their own special candles, adding scents, coloring, and packaging to sell at art fairs, to business owners, and supportive individuals. As the organization grew and became successful, Jessica’s parents saw the potential to assist others with IDD.
“There’s an 80 to 90 percent unemployment rate with those with IDD. Giving these kids a purpose is the whole reason why we do this,” Bonnie said.
Providing these individuals with an environment to socialize, create something they are proud of, employment, and teaching them basic job skills allows them to thrive independently in a workplace environment.
Each alluring candle is carefully crafted, scented, colored, and packaged by an employee. Each employee makes a small commission off of each candle they sell, and profits from each candle sold go towards providing those with intellectual developmental disabilities a better future.
I had the pleasure of meeting some of the wonderful employees and witnessed them craft candles containing a mouthwatering caramel scent. Clad in shirts proudly stating, “I Make Scents,” every employee got their turn to delicately pour and craft a special candle. These individuals are some of the most kind, supportive, and attentive people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting.
When asked about working with those with IDD, Bonnie answered, “Everybody can do something, and they take pure pride in what they do. They don’t think it’s beneath anybody, they are loyal and love what they do. They are the best workers.”
That positive energy was quite evident when I visited the candle shop, as each employee was eager to show me what they made and what they could do. Each employee meticulously has their own special way of completing a task, and takes pride in their work. I was given such a warm welcome by all of the staff members, and left the shop feeling a sense of elation and positivity. I even got to take home my own tropical getaway scented candle entitled, “Bali Spa.”
The future of ScentsAbility is looking bright, as the organization makes custom scented candles for businesses, book parties and events, and is even sponsored by The National Candle Association. In early 2018, ScentsAbility is planning on providing housing for girls with IDD, which will include 24/7 staff for supervision and life-skills programming.
When asked what she wants people to remember about ScentsAbility’s work, Bonnie eagerly replied, “People with intellectual developmental disabilities are capable of doing anything with a little modification and patience, and our products are extremely professional. We use top quality products, and we want to increase awareness for a great cause.”
Why buy from a large corporate candle company when you can buy special candles made by special people that go towards an amazing cause? The candles from ScentsAbility smell sensational, and I will most definitely be coming back for my candle-obsession fix. Each time I burn my “Bali Spa” scented candle, I’ll be reminded of the amazing work that ScentsAbility does to a shine light on these special individuals…one candle at a time.
ScentsAbility is entirely run off of donations and sponsorships. To make a donation or purchase a candle, visit ScentsAbility.org.