Love is the Secret Ingredient

Love is the Secret Ingredient

Monco Pets & People Help Those with Disabilities while Keeping our Dogs Happy

By Tom Baker

When I was asked about doing a piece for our pet issue this summer, I had just been to Belmont Party Supply in Dayton and noticed a small display of dog treats at the counter. I was familiar with the product as they’ve been featured at a stall in the 2nd Street Market for a while now, and my dogs had enjoyed them on more than one occasion. What I wasn’t familiar with, however, was the story behind the bones – I knew that sales of the treats benefitted individuals with disabilities living in our community, but I wasn’t sure exactly how. A visit to Montgomery County’s Jergens Center, just north of downtown, would open my eyes to far more than I had expected.

The morning I arrived, a team of Monco Enterprises representatives was waiting to greet me. Community Relations Specialist Tim Pfister, Sales and Marketing Manager Charlie Pierce and Pets and People Account Executive Denise Boxley were clearly excited to show me around and shed some light on the work that is taking place at the center. As we walked through the hallways towards the production center for Pets and People, Tim and Charlie ran through the unexpected laundry list of programs or products that Monco offers: Secure document destruction, document scanning, catering, take and bake pizza, greeting cards and, of course, hand-made dog treats among others. I was honestly stunned. I expected to walk into a warehouse with a handful of people making treats, and instead was introduced to a truly impressive range of programs and products, all created or serviced by adults with disabilities alongside Monco staff.

It was clear that as we continued on into the Pets and People production area, there was really a sense of pride in the program. We started in a room with ovens lining the walls, and a mixer in the center where the dough was being produced. Charlie Pierce smiled as he proudly pointed out, “This is a high quality product. We don’t use any by-products and minimal preservatives. We use King Arthur Flour, cornmeal and beef or chicken bouillon. That’s about it.” We moved out into a large room where the bulk of the dog treat production took place. It’s here that a Monco staff person sliced segments off of a large block of dough, rolling them out slightly and then placed the pieces of dough into something resembling an automated pasta machine. This resulted in a uniform dough thickness, and prepared it for cutting.

The treats at Monco are cut by hand. The individuals working were clearly happy to be there, and worked diligently as they used both presses and bone shaped cookie cutters. After being cut, the bones are places on sheet trays and then on racks, and are baked, cooled and prepped for bagging. A line of tables was set up on the other side of the room from the rolling and cutting – this is where the bags were being labeled and filled after the bones were carefully counted and weighed. Finally, the treats are placed into bags labeled one by one, featuring a drawing of a dog that was created by one of the individuals working that day. I asked her if she had drawn the dog on the label – “Yes I did, I drew that,” she said, clearly proud that her art was featured on the approximately 2700 bags they sell each month.

As we made our way back towards the Monco Enterprises offices, we talked more about the history and background of Pets and People. It turns out they had been making these treats for many years, but it wasn’t until 2006 and the downturn in the economy that really pushed production forward.

“Most sales at that time were to staff and at the 2nd Street Market,” pointed out Charlie Pierce – “it started as a craft item.”

They’ve even expanded beyond retail sales to fundraising partnerships with schools and other organizations, splitting the sales 50-50. Now that the Pets and People program has become so successful, around 25 to 30 individuals with disabilities work to create these treats each day. Even better, they’re paid for their work. Monco Enterprises not only provides a habilitative environment for its workers, it provides them the dignity and pride in something much simpler – a paycheck.

“People with disabilities have the same wants, needs and desires that everyone else has,” Pfister said. “They want to be a part of, and not apart from, the community in which they live. Their paychecks may be somewhat smaller in size, but it means just as much to them.”

So the next time you’re in the market for some dog treats or a unique fundraising opportunity, check out moncoenterprises.com. At an average price of $3-a-bag retail (found at locations ranging from liquor stores to veterinary clinics – a complete list is available on their site) and $4-a-bag for fundraising, it’s an inexpensive way to support this great program and provide someone an opportunity to enjoy not only the empowerment of being paid to work, but more importantly a feeling of truly being part of the community in which you live.

Reach DCP food critic Tom Baker at TomBaker@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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