The gourmet dog treats sold by one Ohio pet bakery not only please the pups that eat them, they also benefit the homeless teenagers and young adults who make and sell them.
Based in Dayton, Lindy's Bakery was created by Daybreak, a nonprofit that works with homeless and transient young people, offering them outreach, transitional housing and life skills education. Part of those life skills include learning how to get a job.
"We try to move our youth to become self-sufficient," says Daybreak CEO Linda Kramer. "We found they were good at getting a job, but not good at keeping a job."
The young people had problems with soft skills like getting to work on time, dependability and customer service, Kramer says, so the Daybreak team explored ways to help them develop those skills.
"We were trying to find things that might be a match," she says. "We saw that our kids liked to work in the kitchen at our shelter. We tried all different things and this was the one that stuck."
The first year the youth worked with a local bakery where the team there helped them develop recipes for dog treats and allowed them to use their facility to make them. They baked the treats, packaged them, sold them and marketed them. By fall of 2012, they opened up their own bakery in a new building. Four years later, the project has expanded so successfully that Lindy's is building a brand new bakery that will open in fall 2016.
The bakery employs the homeless youth, teaching them various job skills, ranging from baking to customer service and public relations. All proceeds are used to provide emergency shelter, housing and support to more than 500 young people each year through Daybreak services.
"The kids love the idea of working with animals," Kramer says. "People with pets come into the bakery. They very often will bring their dogs in to shop."
The young people get paid while working in the bakery. Typically, they'll work there for about three months, Kramer says, then they'll be matched to other outside employers. They've gone on to do a wide variety of jobs ranging from the food industry to health care.
Currently, the bakery employs about six young employees at once, but Kramer says that should expand when the new bakery opens. The bakery produces between 400-500 pounds of treats each week, which should also increase significantly when the new facility opens.
Although many of the treats are sold at the bakery and some pet stores, they're also available online. They come in 10 flavors ranging from peanut butter and bacon to apples and cheese. There are grain-free, gluten-free and vegan varieties.
"These kids come to us because they're homeless. We provide the housing, the counseling, the case management ... they become our kids in essence," Kramer says. "Working in the bakery can play to their strengths and expose them to different parts of the business. Some have gone on and been successful in so many things."