How Little Red Hen Helps Children & Adults with Developmental Disabilities

Little Red Hen’s mission is anything but little. Their stores, which Senior Director Erika Birkholm describes as “retail with a purpose,” have a big impact on the community, but not in the way you might expect.

Little Red Hen is a local non-profit organization that provides services for children and adults with developmental disabilities in Chico and Butte, Glenn, and Tehama counties.

One of these services includes creating meaningful, fair-wage employment opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities. Adults can choose to work in any of Little Red Hen’s six retail stores or their non-retail trade, skills, horticulture, and e-commerce divisions. The organization currently has over 200 employees altogether!

Each shop sells different products:

  1. Plant Nursery
  2. Kitchen Store
  3. Home Store
  4. Vintage
  5. Floral Shop
  6. Gift Shop

Employees learn different skills at each retail store.

Staff at all six shops master customer service, creating displays, and running the cash register. After that, it gets more job-specific or skill-specific, depending on the ability and interest of the employee.

Here’s a few examples:

  • The gift shop teaches employees how to process merchandise.
  • At the vintage boutique, staff members learn how to research items, write product descriptions, take photographs, and add items to the online Etsy storefront.
  • The plant nursery educates workers about plant care, knowledge, and propagation.

There are several other ways the non-profit helps people with developmental disabilities and the local Chico community:

  1. Educates the larger Chico community on the employees’ abilities, rather than their inabilities
  2. Offers weekly socialization support to 100 kids and teens with autism 
  3. Employs people to work in the online portion of the store, the greenhouse, park & garden, and in tools and trade programs
  4. 100% of their sales and donations go to programs for children and ad​​ults with autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, and other cognitive disabilities

Little Red Hen wasn’t always the organization it is today.

A little over 25 years ago, Little Red Hen didn’t have any retail stores. But Executive Director Teresa Hayes had something else: a backyard pool.

Hayes’s son has autism, and she wanted to accommodate his needs while he learned to swim. A public pool was too stressful for him; her private one was perfect.

She realized that other kids with autism could benefit from this, and a swim program was born. Soon, swimming lessons evolved into helping kids with socialization and play skill services as part of what she called the Sprouts program.


Year Opened: 2003

Employees Then: 10

Employees Now: 200+

Retail Stores: 6

Soon after, Hayes knew she could do more: what services for people with developmental disabilities could she provide to better support the community?

A lightbulb went off. What about helping adults with developmental disabilities learn job skills? Couldn’t that be beneficial? 

Her answer was a resounding yes, and Little Red Hen Nursery officially opened in 2003 with about 10 employees.

With all that Little Red Hen does for the Chico community, it receives the same amount of care back.

The Little Red Hen team is grateful for all the Chico residents who volunteer, donate, and support Little Red Hen in any way they can.

“Chico is a beautiful and supportive community,” said Birkholm. “Our town cares about the people here and the local support is incredible. They allow us to provide these services when they shop at our stores or donate to our programs.”

What are Little Red Hen’s plans for the future, and how can you help?

“In 5 years, and in 10 years, we have the same goal,” said Birkholm. “To continue what we are doing: providing more support, employment and education.”

Visit one of Little Red Hen’s retail locations, shop online, or donate to support their mission. You can also volunteer or apply for a job, and if you know anyone who’d benefit from supportive employment, you can contact your local Far Northern Regional Clients (FNRC) Service Coordinator for an application.

If you want to stay in touch, subscribe to their newsletter or email them at

Upcoming Events:

Holiday Crawl Weekend, December 2-4: You’ll receive 15% off any purchases, and if you visit all six stores, you can enter to win a $200 gift certificate.

Breakfast with Santa, December 10: Meet at Eagle Hall from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for a pancake breakfast, photos with Santa, kid’s activities, a silent auction, and raffles.

All proceeds go to children’s programs, and tickets are available for purchase at all six stores, at the door, or on the homepage of their website.

Little Red Hen—and so many others in the Chico community—appreciate your support! They can’t do what they do without YOU.