FETCHERS PLAY & STAY in Olathe, KS, first partnered with PawsAbilities in 2016. A program of the nonprofit Inclusion Connections, which serves developmentally disabled individuals, it provides skills training and job placement in the pet industry and beyond.
Participants learn translatable skills by baking treats and by sewing dog bandanas and other items. They help run the nearby PawsAbilities store and work elsewhere in the community.
Heather Bever, who owns the dog day care and boarding facility with her husband, Danny, says that when Inclusion Connections approached them, “We knew we wanted to get involved. We started by selling their products and participating in fundraisers.”
Hire through the program. In 2017, they decided to take the partnership a step further.
“After about a year of working with PawsAbilities, we discussed hiring one of their participants who was seeking employment with animals,” Heather says.
Those in the program learn to use kitchen equipment and sewing machines. They also develop retail skills, including interacting with customers and talking about various products.
“Our goal is to assist participants in procuring employment within a field in which their passion lies,” program coordinator Jennifer Beruan says.
Sam Rogers (pictured here) found employment with Heather Bever (above)of Fetchers Play & Stay through a program that provides skills training to those with developmental disabilities.
Conduct interviews, make a hire. PawsAbilities chose three participants to interview for a dog attendant position at Fetchers. Heather and Danny met with the candidates, along with a program representative “to help the individuals with the question-and-answer flow,” Heather says. They also evaluated each candidate’s interactions with dogs.
Sam Rogers landed the job and began work in September 2018. He came with a resume that included PawsAbilities training and experience, plus competition in seven sports during the Special Olympics.
“Sam was great for the job because he has an amazing work ethic, attention to detail and loves all types of dogs,” Beruan says.
Win-win-win. Fetchers gained a valuable employee. Heather says of Rogers, “We call him the ‘dog whisperer’ because whenever he is in the yard, the dogs just naturally gravitate toward him. They are calm and happy when Sam is around. He knows how to handle them, how to clean up after them and what to look for so they don’t get too crazy when playing.”
Rogers gets to do what he loves and move forward in his professional and personal lives.
“Sam is now able to save for his future and feel his independence in being able to provide for some of his own life needs or wants,” Beruan says.
And by hiring Rogers, the Bevers have expanded their support for a program they believe in.
“It’s an amazing organization. We are just so honored to be a part of one of their employment stories.”
Do It Yourself: 5 Steps to Special Placements
- PARTNER WITH a similar organization in your area. There are programs Like PawsAbilities across the country.
- DETERMINE WHICH POSITION is best suited for a developmentally disabled individual. Participants also work as dog bathers.
- CONDUCT INTERVIEWS with a program coordinator to ensure candidates are able to successfully interview. Choose the right candidate for your business.
- ESTABLISH WORKFLOWS for both the new hire and other team members to ensure a safe and productive working environment.
- SHARE YOUR STORY with the community to encourage other businesses to hire those with developmental disabilities.