ALLEGAN — A disability advocacy nonprofit will open a dog treat bakery storefront to create more employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.
The Arc of Allegan County’s Beyond Bones, an all-natural dog treat bakery, employs people with disabilities to tackle a lack of job opportunities. Its Allegan storefront is set to open at 219 Hubbard St. in June. The Arc of Allegan was founded in 1956 to advocate for the inclusion and dignity of individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
The nonprofit began selling the treats in July 2021. The idea came out of an early pandemic Zoom meeting when the nonprofit’s in-person events were paused, said Stacy Engelsman, executive director of the nonprofit. A pause in outreach meant the nonprofit had to find new ways to advocate for people with disabilities.
“The thing that just kept coming up for us over and over again, was in the area of employment,” Engelsman told MiBiz. “There were very limited employment opportunities that provided the support that an individual with a disability needs to be successful in the workplace.”
Beyond Bones currently employs 20 bakers while four to six additional positions for individuals with disabilities will be created once the store opens. The treats are sold at vendor fairs, farmers markets, online and at 14 retail partner sites. The treats are available in regular and mini sizes and are baked four times per week at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Allegan and Path of Grace in Wayland. Volunteers work with the bakers every shift, Engelsman said.
Engelsman expects the storefront to be open four days a week, though times and days are not yet finalized.
Funding the business is a community effort, which includes donations from Mignon Sherwood DeLano Foundation to renovate the storefront and the Perrigo Company Charitable Foundation for startup costs.
The Arc’s primary purpose of Beyond Bones is to create paid employment opportunities and build job skills for people with disabilities, Engelsman said.
“Our hope is that for our bakers, they may decide that treat baking is what’s for them and they’ll continue doing that,” Engelsman said. “(But) we’re hopeful that this is just a launching pad for the individuals that are involved (and) that they can learn and grow with us, and it will open doors to other possibilities as well.”
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