On a weekday afternoon, the STARability Trailblazers are working on packaging up their candles for a corporate client. They fold the boxes, affix logo stickers and set a candle in each box amid a bed of stuffing—yet another shipment ready for this growing craft studio.
STARability Foundation is a Naples-based nonprofit that provides vocational training, social interaction, continuing education and other services to people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The Trailblazers Academy provides opportunities for its participants to develop skills necessary to hold jobs in the community. One of the ways to make this happen is at the STAR Store in the Naples Design District.
The store sells used furniture and accessories, while also serving as a studio where participants make candles, ornaments, bracelets and greeting cards. They sell their handmade goods at the store, local farmers markets or retail shops. Corporate clients have recently been brought aboard, such as the order of candles Trailblazers were working on for Inspired Closets. Everything is done in-house from start to finish, from pouring the wax to boxing up the packages. Even the shells in a candle commemorating the 100th anniversary of Naples were collected on a group outing to the beach.
“It’s my happy place when I’m here; we’re like one big family,” says longtime STARability member and studio assistant Liv Deangelis. “It can show that people of different abilities can do anything that anyone else can do.”
The goal is to sell products, true, but really it’s to give the participants practical experience, whether that’s developing fine motor skills or learning how to work as a team. “They’re learning skills that they can take to a job site,” says Cayla Childs, STARability director of social enterprise. “It’s really about helping them succeed.”