By Megan Alley
Brewhaus Bakery Co. in New Richmond turns the spent grains from local microbreweries into a business learning opportunity for students with disabilities.
The students, who deferred accepting their diplomas in order to stay legally enrolled in school until age 22, hand make dog treats using ingredients donated from local partners such as Listermann Brewing Company and Mount Carmel Brewing Company.
Brewhaus, which aims to provide project based learning, vocation training and work skill development for young adults with disabilities, is the brainchild of New Richmond resident and parent Lisa Graham. She cooked up the idea for the nonprofit organization after visiting a brewery in southern California that sold handmade dog biscuits.
Graham’s daughter Natalie, 20, has a genetic abnormality resulting in developmental disability.
“Like a lot of parents, I wanted to provide my kids with the best learning opportunities to prepare them for a competitive job market,” said Lisa Graham, who is also a clinical social worker.
“I had been looking for ways to provide our kids with more hands-on job experience, and after I discovered the business in San Diego, I thought it would be a great new idea to bring here.”
She approached the New Richmond Exempted School District about her idea and got the green light to add the Brewhaus Baking Co. program to the student curriculum in September 2014.
“This program is highly successful, and it provides the kids with a great opportunity,” said Special Education and Pupil Services Director for New Richmond Schools John Frye.
One teacher and four vocational instructors guide the students through the program. According to the district’s website, the Brewhaus Baking Co. program saves the school district $100,000 per year.
“I like it,” said student Beau Painter, 21 of New Richmond, about the program. “I think it’s great. It’s good for dogs and more people should buy our bones.”
Brewhaus provides a real world start-to-finish nonprofit business model to help participants learn valuable work and life skills. Students participate in all aspects of the business, including planning, marketing, baking, packaging, sales and order fulfillment and staffing community sales events.
“I really like using the molds to make the bones,” said student Natalie Graham. “I’ve heard good things about what we’re doing.”
Brewhaus Baking Co. helps students meet both personal and individual education plan goals and increases the likelihood of students securing integrated, fulfilling and community-based employment at graduation, according to Lisa Graham.
“All the proceeds are funneled back into the program to help it grow,” she said.
Currently, New Richmond Exempted Village School District, Oak Hills High School, Mariemont High School and Sycamore High School participate in the Brewhaus Baking Co. program, and Lisa Graham said other local school districts have expressed interesting in adding the program to their school curriculum. She added that there is no cost for schools to participate.
“I didn’t know what to think about [the program], but I found out I can actually bake” said student Dustin Kennedy, 21 of New Richmond. “I like the relationships I have here. I love it, and I love interacting with people.”
Kennedy is interested in marketing and is in the process of producing a commercial for Brewhaus Baking Co.
“Our treats are all natural and dogs love them,” he said.
Lisa Graham said she selects high quality ingredients to make the dog bones, including farm fresh eggs she gets from her neighbors’ hens.
“I heard the treats taste alright,” said Thomas Stansbery, 21 of New Richmond, who is interested in social media marketing. “I really like being involved.”
Goals for the future of Brewhaus Baking Co. include having a freestanding Brewhaus Bakery and a Brewhaus Brewbus food truck for dogs to support paid integrated employment and continuing to run a vocational training program, said Lisa Graham.
“Brewhaus hopes to create a micro industry in Cincinnati from spent brewery grains that will directly benefit people in all communities with disabilities,” said Lisa Graham, who added that donations are always welcome.
To learn more about Brewhaus Handcrafted Dog Bones, please visit the organization’s Facebook page and website at brewhausdogbones.com.