Landscape firm, commission have vision to help gardener grow
It could have been easy to dismiss David Penfold as a potential employee — not because of his resume, but because of what he has lost.
Penfold, 56, has been a gardener for nearly 30 years, including 15 years as the head gardener at the famous Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island.
"I was always told I would never make it, but I've always been up for a challenge — that's just me," Penfold said.
After leaving the hotel to work in Harbor Springs, closer to his aging parents, Penfold developed relationships with many clients in the area. One client even called him Johnny Appleseed, saying he can make anything grow.
But then Penfold's world was turned upside down.
Last May, Penfold drove to work one morning. By the end of the day, he had to have someone drive him home. Within just a few hours, Penfold had lost his eyesight to glaucoma, a disease he didn't even know he had.
But he wasn't going to give up; after all, Penfold is always up for a challenge.
With the help of the Michigan Commission for the Blind, Penfold began looking for work as a gardener, a career he refused to give up.
The commission helps rehabilitate, train and find jobs for the legally blind, based on their skill set. With some help, Penfold came across an opening at Vidosh North Landscaping in Petoskey.
Owner Don Vidosh Jr. was impressed with Penfold's resume, and didn't hesitate to bring him in. Penfold joined the Vidosh team in March.
"(David) knows what the plans are and he can understand what the plants and sizes are," Vidosh explained. "I'm not strong at the same things he is, so he's filling in the weaknesses."
Without the help of the Michigan Commission for the Blind, it would have been difficult for Penfold to continue in his career as a gardener. The commission helped supply him with special binoculars and a monitor to help him read site plans. They also pay for his training and will continue to work with him for a year.
Penfold didn't give up, and while he still has rough days, he's moving forward in his career despite his disability.
Vidosh said his hope is that more businesses work with the Michigan Commission for the Blind to help the legally blind find jobs that match their skill sets.
"I can't imagine him not being here," Vidosh said of Penfold. "I think this is a great program for any business."
And we agree.
We applaud Vidosh North Landscaping for working with the Michigan Commission for the Blind to help Penfold further his career, and we encourage other businesses to take part in the program.