First Stop, Inc. using earthworm, gardening projects to produce successful futures for the homeless

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - First Stop Inc. is planting more than just a garden in its backyard. New programs are in the works that sow seeds for success among the nonprofit's clients.

"It keeps me busy, it keeps me off the street," Lilly Vickers said.

Vickers is a volunteer who puts her green thumb to work.

"I now water the vegetables, water the rabbits, just do whatever odds and ends, little jobs they need me to do here," Vickers said.

Vickers hopes her volunteer work at First Stop, Inc. will turn into a paid gig someday.

"I've learned a lot of new things even working here so that when I can get a job, I'll have some experience," Vickers said.

The garden is one of the projects happening in the nonprofit's backyard - including fruits, vegetables and plants growing in a greenhouse. The clients are also building outdoor furniture and selling it.

"We're building furniture, rocking chairs," Executive Director Clete Wetli said.

Their newest endeavor is called "Teach 'Em to Fish" and it involves using rabbits' waste as fertilizer for earthworms.

"We started with 20,000 earthworms and we're propagating earthworms," Wetli explained. "We're doing that to not only sell the worms at bait shops, but also we're going to be producing organic fertilizer."

First Stop Inc. is focused on digging deeper with all of their projects.

"We're going to make sure that that money is segregated in an account, as it grows, as soon as possible, we're going to start hiring homeless people," Wetli said.

They are growing more than a garden at 206 Stokes Street, they are sowing a future.

"Rather than be dependent on federal grant money or other types of grants, what we want to do is create a business that's self sufficient," Wetli said.

Wetli said they are selling the furniture, plants and earthworms from their location on Stokes Street. If you are interested in buying any of their goods, Wetli encourages you to stop by.

For more information, or if you would like to donate, visit Firststop.org.

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