Brotherly Love: NJ Pet Store Trains People With Special Needs

By Ukee Washington

MARLTON, NJ (CBS) — Young disabled adults often struggle to find a job, so some parents created job training for them by opening a store. We met some of the young people rising to the challenge and learning the skills they’ll need for life.

Alicia Headley makes change for a customer at Pride Paws in Marlton, a pet supply store.

The employees here have special needs. Many have aged out of high school. This is their first journey into the working world, explains Cherokee high school teacher Kate Maloney: “So they’re help building their resume, and they’re becoming more employable.”

“Everybody learns differently here and stuff,” Alicia said.

The inventory rivals any other pet store. Elizabeth Mannino, a Pride Paws employee, said, “We sell dog biscuits, we sell catnip, cat collars, and dog collars.”

Michael Hofmann shows off the handmade cards at the counter. In the back, other employees weigh and bag dog biscuits they baked themselves.

Pride Paws employee Alec Ritzel said the flavors are “peanut butter, and then there’s oatmeal peanut butter, and then there’s sweet treats.”

Pam Schroeder was one of the co-founders. Her daughter Nicole, who has epilepsy, is developing skills like sewing bandanas.

Pam says the job allows Nicole “to gain confidence so that she can maybe someday work outside of Pride Paws.”

People and pets have embraced the shop. “They come in here, they love it,” Pam said. “They love that there are homemade treats. They love the fact that these kids are pure at heart.”

The young people go through 200 hours of training. Then they make minimum wage. In the last six years, about 50 young people have been through the program.

“Many of our participants have moved on to work in our communities,” Kate said. “They work at Home Depot, different restaurants, hair salons.”

Every time one of the young people moves on, another can come in.

The store is run by a not-for-profit called Pride Ventures. Fundraisers help pay for operating costs. The next fundraiser is Saturday, April 30, from 5 to 9 PM at Pinsetter Bar and Bowl, 7111 Maple Ave. in Pennsauken. To learn more, go to prideventuresinc.org.

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