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The Fresh Start Newsletter

Richard P. Garmany Fresh Start Academy Graduates 8 in January

On January 9, the Academy awarded certificates to eight graduates, recognizing over six weeks of intensive carpentry and construction math, work safety, OSHA 10 training (a 10-hour basic safety and health information course) and CPR certification. Notably, one graduate has been hired by NINA, the Northside Institutions Neighborhood Alliance, Inc., a nonprofit community organization dedicated to restoring blighted historic homes in the Asylum Hill neighborhood. In his new job as a full-time contractor, earning a living wage, our graduate will help restore the Plimpton House.

He writes: “My experience with Fresh Start was more than pleasant and enlightening, as well as encouraging. The friendly and patient staff members at Fresh Start bring forth a ‘want-to-win’ attitude. 

“I learned numerous skills, including how to save money by doing my own repairs around my home, and I'm also able to help my loved ones with repairs. I’m currently enjoying my work for NINA, and also studying maintenance engineering. “I feel great to be a part of a program that seems made for people like me. I look back and see where I am now, versus where I was. “It's a beautiful thing to be employed and be appreciated at the employment center. It gives me a ‘we can win’ approach daily. I'm looking forward to recommending the Richard P. Garmany Fresh Start Academy to others in the community. Thanks, Fresh Start!”

We Welcome Mohamad Alktefan

Please join us in welcoming Mohamad Alketfan to the Fresh Start Family. A part-time worker, Mohamad joined us in early February. He and his family are from Syria, where he built furniture frames for upholstery makers. In his first project with Fresh Start, a table, he demonstrated a variety of his carpentry and finishing skills. (pictured on right, a table Mohamad made in the Fresh Start shop, now in his home)

Fresh Start Proudly Displays Program/Products at Trade Show

Three Connecticut Convention Center shows hosted a Fresh Start booth this February, allowing us to broaden our outreach and visibility, as well as make many new friends, customers, and volunteers.  The Connecticut Bridal Show, held early in the month, offered an opportunity to showcase Fresh Start arbors, a charming focal point for wedding ceremonies and photographs of newlyweds and their bridal parties. The Home Builders Show provided contacts with contractors and builders, potential employers for our graduates. Finally, at the Flower & Garden Show (a favorite of ours for a number of years), we invited gardeners to consider our furniture as a lovely complement to their yards, gardens, and patios. These venues gave us exposure to thousands of people from Connecticut and beyond. Our experience is that these events have a “long tail,” producing a number of sales, donations, and volunteers months after the show.

Webb Deane Stevens Museum Expresses Gratitude for Partnership

The Webb Deane Stevens Museum in Wethersfield, featuring a restored 18th-century residence, barn, and colonial-style gardens, commissioned Fresh Start to help on two important restoration projects: the exterior shutters on the Joseph Webb House and an arbor in the Amy Cogswell Colonial Revival Garden. Brenton Grom, museum executive, wrote, “The high quality of their workmanship is a perfect fit for our National Historic Landmarks, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with Fresh Start Pallet Products in the future.”

Mortensen Foundation Supports Healthy Shop Environment

The William & Alice Mortensen Foundation of West Hartford, which offers grant funding to nonprofits in the area, has donated $6,400 to support a healthier environment in our shop. The grant covers the purchase of three large high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, which remove fine dust particles from the shop environment. Additionally, through this gift, we have acquired a new dust collector for our machinery. The HEPA filters not only reduce dust, but also minimize excessive noise.

Fresh Start CEO Joins Key reSET Committee

Fresh Start CEO Jenna Columbus was selected to join an intensive four-month program with the Hartford-based reSET Social Enterprise Trust. The new cohort of talented entrepreneurs began their work together in March, with a mission-presentation session. Jenna’s participation will strengthen Fresh Start’s relationship to the community, as well as to new partners and potential supporters in the area.

CT Builder Highlights Fresh Start

Fresh Start Pallet Products is featured in the Winter/Spring 2024 Issue of the Connecticut Builder Magazine. Located on page 108 of this trade publication, the Fresh Start article highlights our mission as a social enterprise, as well as the high quality of the work we produce. We encourage you to learn more about our organization and consider us for upcoming fine carpentry and woodworking projects in your home, business, and community organizations.

Fresh Start Seeks New Employees and Volunteers

We are seeking to hire a lead carpenter. Please follow this link for further information. We are also looking for volunteers to assist with a variety of tasks. Please contact Jenna Columbus (860) 373-4703 (860 Fresh03) or email


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