The other day we saw a 20-something guy wearing a t-shirt that read “Sorry I can’t. Got plans with my dog.”
My husband (a major dog lover and rescue supporter) thought it was just the best thing he’d ever seen. He had to have one. He told me the shirt took the words right out of his mouth!
At Inclusion Connections nonprofit, which is based in Kansas City suburb Olathe, we also love dogs. And we also love the young people we serve who have developmental disabilities like Down syndrome and Autism.
When we were designing a job training program, Director Debbie Horn kept circling back to love for dogs and love for people. Thus was born PawsAbilities, which offers young adults opportunities to build translatable job skills by making dog treats, toys, bandanas and other dog-related products.
Teaching Translatable Job Skills For Disabled Young Adults Through Dog Gear!
Each day trainees come to work in the Paws Bakery at Inclusion Connections’ Activity Center, learning to measure and mix ingredients, operating commercial kitchen equipment, rolling and pressing dough, and timing the oven.
Oh, what a wonderful oven we have now (when we first starting Paws, we used a toaster oven!). Trainees package treats (peanut butter and grain-free), and help keep inventory stocked.
Trainees also learn to operate sewing machines, creating theme-oriented doggie bandanas. Some of our best sellers are Kansas City Royals and Chiefs prints, along with Kansas University and K-State dog bandanas.
The inspiration for another product, an indestructible fire hose toy, came from local fire department involvement with IC. They had used fire hoses, which they donated for trainees to sew into doggie pull toys which, in theory, you have to buy only once!
We also collect used t-shirts from the community and upcycle them into colorful pull rings and braided toys for dogs. A newer product was introduced last winter, a paw protector wax to keep your pup’s paw pads supple and protected from winter’s harsh ice-melting chemicals.
When you walk into the Olathe PawsAbilities store, you will be greeted by a trainee with a big smile, excited to see you (and your dog!). Running the register is one of the favorite tasks trainees perform. Cleaning the kitchen and equipment, stocking and dusting the store shelves, being kind to customers and their dogs – these are all skills which trainees bring to a future workplace.
At Inclusion Connections we are focusing on developing jobs with interested businesses. That means we work with employers to discover tasks which can be completed successfully by a trainee, matching up positions with an individual’s interests, skills, and transportation needs. It is our goal to help each PawsAbilities trainee find a paying job in the community where they live.
How Can You Help Support PawsAbilities?
How can you help support young adults who are motivated and excited to learn skills in order to become employed? Buy our products!
You can visit PawsKC.org and purchase yummy, all natural peanut butter or grain-free dog treats, beautifully handcrafted bandanas and other products.
Looking for a unique and meaningful gift? Order a PawsAbilities Monthly Subscription of dog treats to be sent to your family, friends, favorite teacher or boss.
If you live in the Kansas City metro area, shop our store on Santa Fe in Olathe, just off I-35. Our products can also be found at a myriad of local retailers and veterinarian offices. We have beautiful, well-stocked booths at Kansas City events such as Olathe Farmers Market, the Holiday Boutique and Just for Her events.
All the dollars raised from sales of our products go right back into the program, training individuals with intellectual disabilities for future jobs.
So if you’re like the guy wearing the t-shirt who’d rather hang with his dog than just about anything else, you can spoil your dog and make a real difference at the same time – by supporting PawsAbilities job training program.
Visit PawsKC.org or come see us in person – our special ingredient is our people!