The Faces of Garten

This photo essay is part of “We Are the Change,” a series telling the stories of local causes. View all the “We Are the Change” essays.

You may have seen the Garten Services trucks around town that say they save almost a million trees or shred 3 million tons of paper every year. But Garten is so much more than a recycling business.

Garten Services helps adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities find employment, a sense of purpose and a connection with the community. By receiving an array of services and support, Garten participants find success as they discover the unique ways they can contribute to society.

Some participants want to hold jobs in the broader community; others prefer to work in Garten’s sheltered workshops alongside others who have disabilities. Some can work independently, while others need assistance. Garten partners with outside employers to provide jobs and training, and also hires people for its internal fee-for-services enterprises, which include recycling, commercial laundry and custodial work.

Garten helps more than 500 adults in the Willamette Valley, but the eight individuals here represent the organization’s story well. Their faces show a sense of dignity and self-worth — demonstrating their dedication, the pride they feel in doing their jobs well, and their feelings of accomplishment.

Contact Garten Services
Phone: 503-581-1984


01 Kirsten

Kirsten Cisto is working this summer in a café at Willamette University as part of Garten’s Summer Youth Employment Program. Her wages are paid by Garten, and she’s getting work experience in the field she’s interested in. She hopes to become a chef.


02 Chris

Chris Ringwald is more comfortable working inside Garten’s online sales packaging department, where he assembles packages, stocks inventory and creates shipping labels on the computer. He has had jobs in the community, but his short-term memory was problematic, and without the proper support, none of those jobs lasted long. Now, he works with a job coach to learn skills that will help him find outside employment and to discover the support system he will need to be successful. When Chris is ready, an employment specialist will help him find a job that matches his skills and interests.


03  Jimmy

Jimmy Smith wanted to drive, but his disabilities got in the way. However, Jimmy learned to drive a riding lawn mower using a trailer built specifically for him — it’s low enough for him to reach his tools and includes a hand-operated lift designed for him to work with one hand. By focusing on his abilities instead of his disabilities, Jimmy drives now and can work independently for much of his job.


04 Dorothy

Dorothy Kilmer works on the Garten recycling belt, hand-sorting items that come from Marion County. Despite extreme temperatures on the job, Dorothy comes to work every day and takes pride in what she does. She says her job is important to the community and that she never wants to retire.


05  Kent

Kent Johnson works at Garten in the electronics recycling department — he hand-sorts electronic materials that come in from a variety of companies and individuals. Every day after work, he walks to the Marion-Polk Food Share to volunteer three to four hours a day. Kent says he likes to volunteer because it gives him something else to do with his time and it is “good for the heart.”


06 Mark

Mark Johnston has been on the janitorial crew for almost two years at the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, one of Garten’s fee-for-service contracts. He has been living on his own for the past two years and says he likes the freedom to do whatever he wants. He hopes to open a clothing store someday, but for now, the night hours of his current job suit him, and he says he feels accepted there for who he is.


07 Jody

Jody Ulrickson is a certified fork lift operator, a skill he learned on the job with Garten, and he works in the recycling warehouse, where trucks from various companies bring materials to be sorted and recycled. He has worked at Garten for five years, and he hopes to get a job in the community where he could have a greater variety of tasks in addition to driving a fork lift.


08 Zoie

Zoie Miller is also in the Garten Summer Youth Employment Program, working in a café at Willamette. This is her first paid work experience, and she says she likes serving people — seeing all those happy faces makes her happy, too. She is a student in Salem-Keizer’s Community Transition Program, for students ages 18 to 21 with disabilities. Zoie was once a caregiver for her grandmother, and after she finishes school, she wants to find a permanent job working with the elderly.

Shelley Joyce is an internal job coach at Garten and has advocated for people with disabilities for more than 14 years. After taking a break from her writing and photography work to raise her children, she picked up her camera again and has a special interest in environmental portraits like the ones in this essay.