Lindsay Heights is a community in Milwaukee that’s changing for the better thanks to Blue Skies Landscaping, a social enterprise started by the Milwaukee-based nonprofit organization and community development center, Walnut Way.
According to an article by the Milwaukee Independent, Blue Skies provides job training and employment for people who have traditionally faced employment barriers. Blue Skies provides a full range of landscaping services in the Milwaukee area, including installing and maintaining landscapes, green infrastructure, gardens and fruit trees, and executing landscaping contracts on all types of properties.
During the growing season, Blue Skies employs about a dozen city residents. Most of these employees either reside in or have ties to Lindsay Heights, a community where unemployment is three times the national average.
One of these individuals is Henry Hopkins, who has been employed with Blue Skies for the last year. Hopkins was released from prison in October 2017 and says the job has helped keep him focused and has allowed him to provide child support.
Over six years, Blue Skies has seen an increase of more than 2,000% in earned revenue from $17,365 in 2012 to more than $450,000 in 2018. That accounted for between 30 to 40% of Walnut Way’s total 2018 operating budget.
Larry Adams, co-founder of Walnut Way and founder of Blue Skies, says that its success is because of the unique combination of practical capitalism, social equity and environmental sustainability. He says that having young people invest in knowledge and skills to carry an organization forward is critical to its strength.
Blue Skies seeks to build a highly skilled team and it invests earnings in training and certifications for employees.
“I think the beautiful part of the landscaping program is that it equips employees with knowledge that can provide for families in the long run,” says Adams.