Don Scales, 29 and Jessica Camire, 26, Opportunity Makers
In Greensboro, we love our dogs.
Dogs run in the annual Run 4 the Greenway and Thanksgiving Day Gobbler 5k races. Natty Greene’s hosts a pop-up dog park in the summer months on First Friday. And the police department’s bloodhound puppy Sully nearly broke the Internet with her cuteness.
So it makes sense that dogs are at the heart of one of the city’s unique vocational trainings, the arcBARKS Dog Treat Company, the Spring Garden Street bakery where “special dog treats are made by special hands.”
The all natural dog treat company is a program of the Arc of Greensboro. It provides individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities, such as Down Syndrome, vocational training while they work as staff bakers in an operational bakery.
Twenty-one people currently serve as bakers, with eight working each day Monday through Friday making the treats, packaging them and selling them.
“My younger brother has special needs and had been involved with Arc of Greensboro, so that really sparked my interest,” says Jessica Camire, 26, the program manager at arcBARKS. “arcBARKS gives a sense of self-worth and purpose. Our bakers learn skills and it adds great value for a population that is often overlooked.”
Don Scales, 29, arcBARKS business manager, had just finished his Master’s degree in public affairs when he heard about the bakery from a friend.
“I was intrigued by the job training and entrepreneurial side offered. I thought it was cool and innovative,” Don says. “A lot of our bakers have jobs outside of arcBARKS, like Kohls, Harris Teeter and Walgreens. At the same time, they are reinforcing the skills they use in the workplace at arcBARKS.”
The dog treats – and the message of personal empowerment behind them – have proven popular with puppy parents. The treats are now sold at Fresh Markets, Lowe’s Foods and Bestway Grocery Company locations, as well as the bakery.
“In the coming years, I see us growing and hopefully expanding our program hours,” Jessica says. “We are always looking for ways to work with the community and help our bakers grow in their independence.”