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Progress Industries spends a day at an apple orchard

Lee Zmolek’s favorite memory of his apple orchard is helping a boy with cerebral palsy pick an apple.

Lee said several years ago he saw the boy, struggling to keep the apple picker steady because of his condition. Lee went over to help him steady the long stick up in the tree and when the boy pulled the tool down and the apple fell. Lee said the boy’s face lit up with glee.

“We take so much for granted,” Lee said. “Like picking an apple.”

Lee and his wife Catherine have been inviting the people of service at Progress Industries to pick apples and peaches for three or four years. Ruth Neal, director of operations for day habilitation and intermediate care facilities, said the day habilitation program has been focusing on Octoberfest and teaching the idea of harvesting.

“It was a wonderful activity that we could tie together with our topic of the week,” Neal said.

Not all the people of service were able to pick apples, but that didn’t stop them from having fun. In the orchard, the Zmoleks set up chairs so people could sit and enjoy the six apple trees.

“It’s not just going out for the apples,” Neal said. “They like going out to just sit in the yard and enjoy the space.”

The trees had low enough hanging fruit to where some could simply reach and grab an apple. Others had fun using the apple picker, with assistance. One man, Bob Tedrow, quickly climbed up the ladder and began passing apples down to other people.

“The ones that do get up on the ladder are pretty courageous,” Lee said.

Catherine said Lee, whose son Stewart is a person of service at Progress Industries, spends a considerable amount of time during the year taking care of the orchard. She said they require a lot of pruning. When the buses from Progress Industries arrived, Catherine quickly showed everyone where the ripest apples were.

“It’s just a joy to see the happy faces on the people,” Catherine said.

Even though caring for the orchard takes time, Lee said his work on the orchard is more a labor of love.

“I like serving. That’s what this whole thing is about,” Lee said.

“I love the joy that’s in here,” Catherine added, motioning to her heart.

Staff writer Dave Hon may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 425, or at

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