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Where there’s soap, there’s hope

(May 2, 2014) Clients at the Worcester County Development Center began a handmade soap business nearly two months ago and are launching their line at Springfest this weekend.

Franklin Minor, of Newark, carves a beach-themed insert at the Inner Ocean headquarters at the Worcester County Development Center. The new soap-making business is giving 15 county adults living with intellectual disabilities employment, WCDC Program Director Jack Ferry said. (Photos courtesy of the Worcester County Development Center)

Inner Ocean is providing more then a dozen of the county’s adults living with intellectual disabilities employment and the freedom that comes with it, WCDC Program Director Jack Ferry said.

Like any other company, the proceeds go toward paying the workers’ wages, with the remainder reinvested in the business.

“Programs like this are so important. Because they’re earning that money, they can decide what they want to do. They become more independent,” he said of the WCDC clients involved in the project.

The idea for a soap-making business has long existed in the WCDC, but didn’t come to fruition until a staffer stumbled across the business for sale on Craigslist. The WCDC bought Inner Ocean, keeping the name and getting some training from the company before branching out on its own.

“It was just perfect,” Ferry said. “The process was there for us. We refined it a little bit to make it more accessible for our clients.”

He added: “That’s our job: to make them able to work, based on their talents and abilities.”

So far, about 15 WCDC clients are taking part in the process, which involves melting glycerin and pouring it into molds; collecting, washing and drying the seaweed that’s used in the natural soap; labeling and packaging the product, which is customizable; and helping with cleanup.

“It’s nice because this business is brining work across a lot of our different areas,” Ferry said.

The end product is a natural, glycerin-based soap with a clear top, white insert in nautical shapes from crabs and starfish to shorebirds, and a green bottom that’s colored by seaweed.

Now that the business is up and running, its products will sell in boutiques around Ocean City, Berlin and Delaware and soon online, Ferry said.

The ultimate goal for Inner Ocean is to expand beyond the workspace in the Development Center in Newark and into an “integrated workforce” where WCDC clients work alongside others in the community, he said.

Events like Springfest make more members of the community aware of the project and “show them the abilities that people with disabilities have,” he said. And when his clients “see that end result, they’re very proud of what they’ve done.”

Ferry invited the community to check out Inner Ocean’s launch at Springfest today through Sunday, where Inner Ocean works will be selling their products for $1-$12.

Visit www.wcdcservices.org to learn more about the Worcester County Development Center.

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