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Teachers Create Finley's Barkery to Employ Adults on the Autism Spectrum

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Want to support a good cause and buy delicious treats for your pup? Look no further than Finley’s Barkery, a Minnesota-based bakery which makes dog treats and is staffed by adults on the autism spectrum.

Finley’s Barkery, which opened less than a year ago in March 2016, is the brainchild of two special education teachers, Angie Gamades and Kyle Gallus, who founded the bakery as a way of providing meaningful employment for adults on the autism spectrum.

“As two special education teachers with many years of combined experience, we saw a need for meaningful work opportunities for adults with disabilities ages 21 and older,” Gamades told The Mighty. “Statistics show that 80 to 90 percent of adults with autism and other intellectual disabilities are unemployed or underemployed. We wanted to change that! We strived to provide a strength-based and meaningful work opportunity for our employees where they are able to learn and practice functional work skills in the community.”

The barkery currently employs six people on the spectrum. Gamades and Gallus work with each employee to find their strengths and assign roles based on that. Five employees work in the kitchen making treats and packaging them for sale, while another employee works from home, a more sensory-sensitive environment, labeling items.

Currently, Finley’s Barkery is fundraising for a “Bark Truck,” which would allow its employees to hand deliver treats and interact with customers (and their dogs!). Beyond delivering treats in person, Finley’s Barkery also ships treats out nationwide.

“They are such hard working, motivated and dedicated employees,” said Gamades, who recommends more companies hire adults with autism and other learning disabilities. “They are proud of their work and accomplishments and thrive when given an opportunity to grow and learn. They also have many strengths that often go untapped.”

Originally published: January 20, 2017
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