GardenSphere’s “Ray of Sunshine”

When Francine Stalder comes to work at GardenSphere in Tacoma, she gives her coworkers the same few updates: She’s lost six pounds; she got a new battery for her watch; and she’s excited about her birthday coming up in December, even when it’s February.

“What are you going to do (for your birthday), Francine?” her work coach ErikaRose Arceo asked.

“Gonna party!” she said.

Stalder, or “Franny” around the shop, is a developmentally disabled worker whom Vadis, a local nonprofit, paired with GardenSphere about three years ago. GardenSphere is a garden shop on Proctor owned by brothers Travis and Gabe Valbert.

Stalder sorts price markers, dunks air plants in water, sweeps the floors, and more. When she first came in for an interview, she was so nervous that she walked out of the shop. But nowadays, the brothers and the team at GardenSphere are like family.

“One of her trademark lines when she first gets here in the morning, she gets this really high kid-like voice and she says, ‘Miss me?! Miss me?’ and she goes in for a hug,” said Travis Valbert.

Her favorite reward for her hard work is to get her nails done. She’s a devoted Seahawks fan and sports green and blue polish during the season.

When a representative from Vadis approached the brothers about considering hiring Stalder, they we’re excited. And she has proved to be a great asset.

And her laugh, it’s contagious. She’s like a ray of sunshine. “It’s hard to have a bad day on Thursdays,” Gabe Valbert said.

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is the managing editor at South Sound magazine. Email her.
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