Friday, February 13, 2015

The Shepherds Greenhouse - Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Thank you to Owen Lackey, Lead Instructor, Horticulture, for writing today's blog.

Nearly four decades ago, Shepherds found itself in an era of transition as enrolled children began to become young adults. A few conversations at Shepherds Home and School were soon purposed toward discovering new and challenging educational activities. Added activities would enhance care and vocational programs for residents. During this era, queries and contacts were extended to friends and families of the ministry in order to include them in the process.  One contact in particular took root quickly, resulting in a growing, lively branch of the ministry.

Shepherds greenhouse program began in the late 1970’s with the gift of a working greenhouse from a generous family desiring to assist Shepherds in its ministry purpose. This first 2,000 sq. ft. greenhouse served its function in giving Shepherds a lively, living workplace in which to enjoy plants, get dirty and wet, and work toward productive outcomes!

A campus will often grow and prosper, and, in 1990, the greenhouse location on Shepherds campus proved to be a valuable spot for building expansion. Relocation was planned, but the original family that provided the greenhouse decided that it was time to bless Shepherds again, this time with a larger, state-of-the-art steel structure. 

This structure has served Shepherds Ministries very well over the past 25 years. It has been home base for the grounds and greenhouse crews of Shepherds clients who have worked to decorate and care for the campus. Many classes and individual clients have spent time transplanting and potting-up plants for sale or installations on campus each spring. At 3,600 sq. ft., the space provided adequate growing room for spring seasonal bedding sales, vegetable garden starts, perennial divisions, and specialty plant storage.

Seven years ago, Shepherds College opened its doors to begin ministering to the educational and vocational preparation needs of young adults with intellectual disabilities who would benefit from its help. The two primary vocational tracks for students were Culinary Arts and Horticulture. As the College has grown, it has been a great privilege to turn over more and more greenhouse lab space to meet the needs of Horticulture students for active learning space. As a result, the Horticulture students and staff now operate the greenhouse, while Shepherds campus and its grounds crew still enjoy the advantages of growing space, right on campus. 

The Horticulture students of Shepherds College enjoy a three year experience in the various aspects of a career in the Green Industry. They are involved in vegetable gardening and small-greenhouse growing of tender crops. They also participate in grounds care, teaming up with the grounds crew in campus work. The spring brings an active, aggressive push toward filling our larger greenhouse, so there is a lot of work happening there! Third year students are then given opportunity to fine tune their skills in local “green” businesses, serving as interns in their work areas for four days a week.

This year, once again, the Shepherds College Greenhouse will be opening its doors to community opportunity.

Shepherds College Greenhouse will be open to the public each Friday and Saturday for the month of May and also Memorial Day. Horticulture students will be available to sell the 30,000 plants that they have been involved in raising. As a part of their training, they will be involved as sales staff, sharing their Horticulture knowledge with the public and learning the ins and outs of customer service!

Plant materials for sale will include:

·         Bedding plants for yard and garden
·         Vegetable plants
·         Perennials
·         Hanging baskets
·         Hanging bags
·         Custom potting will be available, performed by our students
·         A rental program will continue offering large planters (24”) for June delivery to a local site.

Greenhouse hours will be restricted to five hours per day in order to match student availability. Hours will be as follows:

·         Friday, May 1, 8, 15, 22, and 29 from noon to 5pm

·         Saturday, May 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 from 9 am to 2 pm

·         We will be open on Memorial Day from 9 am to 2 pm

We hope to see all of our local friends at the Plant Sale! Call 262-878-5620 ext. 6423 with any questions.

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at

Monday, February 9, 2015

Ministry in Residential Life

Mr. Kasprzak
Thank you to Zak Kasprzak, Residential Life Faculty, for writing today's blog.

Working in Residential Life can be a challenging, yet rewarding role.  Throughout the few years the students are here at Shepherds College, we get to see a lot of growth in them.  However, that also means that we get to see right where they are at before that growth takes place.  Our students fall at many different points on the spectrum of abilities and independence when they first arrive, but regardless of the initial level of capability or the pace at which each student advances, growth is always the common denominator.

Aside from the growth we see academically, vocationally, and socially, it is incredibly rewarding to watch the people we work with come to new realizations of who they are and who they were created to be.  Although I will most likely not have the opportunity to see the continued progress of many of these students after they leave Shepherds College, witnessing important milestones in their lives is by far the best part of my job.  I have worked with students who are passionate about their faith, as well as students who are still trying to figure out exactly what they believe, but regardless of where students are at on their own spiritual journeys, it is important that they have opportunities to grow and mature regularly.  Whether that be talking with a student one on one or praying with each other during group meetings, these experiences help to shape us into what God has intended us to be.

One of my goals as a member of the Res Life team is to help the students I work with put the Biblical knowledge they acquire into action so that they may know God, not just know about God.  Practically speaking, this is a constant challenge for myself and just about every other Christian I know, but thank God that He longs for us and desperately desires for us to know Him personally.  Sounds like it should be simple then, right?

Well… one of the biggest challenges I face is how to help these students connect spiritual truth with spiritual depth.  It is not too difficult to memorize facts about someone, but building and maintaining a relationship can be hard work.  Now let's attempt to do that with someone who we can't visibly see, physically touch, or audibly hear aside from supernatural circumstances.  That’s a hard concept to wrap our minds around, much less put into action.  Every day we face a new fork in the road, but fortunately we are not on this journey alone and can figure things out together.

Though challenges in life will always exist, great accomplishments would be meaningless without them.  Our students face struggles and successes day after day, and through it all, continue to grow into the exact people that God has designed them to be.  And let’s not pretend this growth is completely one-sided; they’re teaching me new things about patience, love, and understanding every single day.

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at

Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Review of Love Without Limits

Thank you to Cathy Harvey, Administrative Assistant, for writing today's blog.

As winter crept in, I stole a few hours to soak up a new read, a biography of an amazing man who has lived without arms or legs.  You may have heard of him or seen his unique videos.  Google “Nick Vujicic” and he’ll pop right up.   His name is as unique as his capabilities, but if you can’t remember his name, simply Google “man without arms and legs” and my guess is it will be hard to stop reading his website or hard not to click into numerous photos, videos, and testimonies that he has posted.

His book Love Without Limits is his seventh inspiring book in which he explains “it doesn’t take a perfect person to find a perfect love.”   This native born Australian with a Serbian name is incredibly optimistic and answers hard questions about how he lives, how he overcame depression and bullying, how to live above circumstances and how, as he says, to live a “ridiculously good life” even without limbs.  His books are filled with practical advice and common sense while offering snippets of his world speaking tours, the company and ministry he has started, and godly people he has met along the way.

Book seven, however, tackles yet another astounding aspect of his life—his marriage to a beautiful Mexican-Japanese woman named Kanae!  This is a page turner from page one.  Even without reading his previous books, the reader still learns much about his life and how he came to Christ.  As one can imagine, he did not think he would ever find someone who would ever feel compelled to marry him, a man without arms and legs.  There was no medical reason for his unusual birth, and he has only met less than 30 other people like himself in the world.  BUT GOD, in His sovereign plan, wove his life with another’s even though they lived an ocean apart. He is very clear from the beginning, that even without arms and legs he had a desire to find love, give love, and be loved just like everyone else.  He is candid about what a romantic comedy his dating years made!

Page after page he answers all the questions that pop into one’s head about how he functions in day to day needs.  The book toggles between telling his life story and hearing the love story from his and his wife’s perspectives.  Both Mr. & Mrs. add practical Biblical wisdom to the pitfalls and temptation of dating, loving, marrying, and having children. As the tagline to the book reads, this is certainly “a remarkable story of true love conquering all”!

I do not want to give too much away or steal the awe you will feel as you read their amazing story and see how they conquered one challenge after another.  Even if you’ve been too busy to read lately, I highly recommend you check out Love Without Limits at your local library, and be encouraged by someone who had every reason to be discouraged, but is not!

Life Without Limits
Nick Vujicic with Kanae Vujicic
Published by WaterBrook Press, 2014
ISBN:  978-1-60142-617-8

Shepherds College - Guiding Your Transition to Appropriate Independence. Please visit us at

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Teacher Tuesday: On & 4 Purpose

Thank you to Lori Konopasek, Dean of Students, for writing today's blog.

This is Mrs. Konopasek's artwork - a giraffe.
I am not much of an artist; basically, only my mother appreciates my art.  I am not even sure if my handiwork made it on the refrigerator for display for very long when I was a child.  Even though I am lacking in artistic skill, I still enjoy art and design.  I love visiting independent art stores, and decorating my first home is a great memory. 

A bigger scope of design that we can appreciate is in our relationship to God.  God designed us on purpose and for a purpose.  This is the very first principle of Appropriate Independence, the guiding philosophy of Shepherds.  It is also the title of a first-year class at Shepherds College.  We are God’s masterpiece; we are His artistic work and design.  In the class, my co-teacher Mrs. Cyr and I want to help students gain an understanding of God’s design for their lives.  The fact that God has a plan for them and designed each student with a disability is a powerful and empowering concept.

I asked students about what being designed on and for a purpose means to them.  Here are some student answers:

“I was made on purpose by God.  He created me for a reason and for a special purpose in mind.”

“He made me just the way he wanted me.”

“I am to help other people.”

“God made me to do a job for him.”

“I was made by God because God loves me.”

“I have a place in life, and God made me to talk about him.”

“I was made for a reason.”

Here are some staff responses:

“I will always be loved by God and can be used by Him.”

“I am not a mistake.  He guides me to complete that purpose and gives me wisdom, strength, and grace to fulfill that purpose.  He delights in using me to accomplish it.”

“I have value.”

“God made each of us the way He wanted and gave us each a special job to do.”

“I am reminded of God’s sovereignty, unique design, and desire to use me for His glory.”

“God orchestrates my life.  I don’t have to worry because His love is a masterpiece.”

When I consider these responses, I see the recognition of God and His plans.  God’s intentional design gives confidence and focus.  This is not about us, but instead about being used by Him to fulfill His plan.  This is design and art that I can certainly value and appreciate!   It is more than refrigerator worthy!

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