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Reentry grant provides hands-on landscaping, horticulture skills

Delaware Center for Horticulture

Delaware Center for Horticulture’s Return to Work program is getting a boost from the newly created State Reentry Funding Program.  

A two-year grant from the Attorney General’s office and Criminal Justice Council will help the program expand to offer some participants assistance in pursuing higher education or starting their own businesses.

DCH Director of Programs Ann Mattingly says they’ll start small - trying to work with six graduates in the first year, and twelve the following year.


"We want to make sure it’s feasible that we have the capacity to provide a program that’s strong and has meaning so we’re intentionally keeping our numbers low," Mattingly said.

Since 2009, the Return to Work program has graduated 60 people - including many just out of prison. Over two thirds of those individuals are now employed.


Bob Harris has been the Delaware Center for Horticulture’s landscape supervisor since he completed the Return to Work program in 2010.


His counselor at the Plummer Center, a level five correctional facility in Wilmington, recommended him for the program.

“I came to work every day and acted like I was trying to get a job and eventually they hired me shortly after the program was over," Harris said.

Over five years later, he says he still enjoys coming to work every day.

“I was raised in a family that was always growing gardens," Harris said. "My mother had flowers, we always had a vegetable garden. So I had a little know how on how to plant trees, because we planted several trees when I was growing up.”


The Delaware Nursery and Landscape Association has endorsed the program as an Introductory Horticulture Training Program.


And the program earned national praise, winning the National Arbor Day Foundation’s  2014 Award for Education Innovation, recognizing inventive horticultural programming.


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