In 2016, Anne Tuccillo and her son Bryan were each at a professional crossroad. Anne was about to retire from the federal government and her son Bryan had aged out of special education services at Falls Church High school and was unable to find paid employment, despite having eight different job coaches. Bryan has Mitochondrial Disease, a degenerative neurological disease that impacts his ability to walk, speak clearly, see well and live independently.
Anne wasn’t ready to stop working. She was also concerned by the lack of meaningful paid employment opportunities for her son Bryan and adults like him with physical and developmental disabilities. Their dog Friday and some especially delicious ginger cookies led Anne and Bryan to the solution — creating Pawfectly Delicious Dog Treats.
The treats that got Friday’s tail wagging were initially made by one of Anne’s colleagues, Holly Langer-Evans and given to the Tuccillos as a holiday gift. When the Tuccillo family decided to get a companion dog for Bryan, they were warned that the dog may eat the ginger cookies right off the Christmas tree, but not to worry – the treats were all natural and healthy for dogs and humans. If Friday’s reaction to the treats was so positive, Bryan and Anne mused – why not launch a business and sell the delicious and healthy treats? Creating meaningful work and providing job training for adults with disabilities was always part of the plan. After baking many batches in Anne’s kitchen for the dogs of family and friends, Anne and Bryan received an enthusiastic PawsUP! and were encouraged by Holly to form a nonprofit.
Pawfectly Delicious Dog Treats are made from all-natural ingredients – they are safe for humans and dogs to consume. Their recipe is actually a gingersnap.
To minimize their overhead, the treats are made in two stages – in stage one the dough is mixed at the kitchen at the Pulley Career Centerin Fairfax County through a partnership with the school’s Culinary Arts Program at West Potomac High School. Stage two is baking and packaging. St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria donates their kitchen to Anne, Bryan and the team. Pawfectly Delicious has a team of four young adults to bake and package the treats along several community volunteers every Tuesday and Thursday at St. Luke’s.
Treat making operations are overseen by Charlie Flynt who has many years of experience working with young adults with disabilities. Since the organization is fairly new, and not yet able to raise funds or accept donations, all team members are considered “volunteers.” Anne and her Board of Directors look forward to the day when every employee both differently abled and those without disabilities can earn a pay check.
Another team of young adults join the weekly bakers to help sell the treats at the farmer’s market sponsored by St. Luke’s on church property.
Anne says that seeing Bryan and his peers enjoy their work because they are doing something meaningful is both heartwarming and rewarding. Of course, Friday remains the organization’s top taste-tester and biggest fan. You can purchase Pawfectly Delicious Dog Treats onlineand at these Alexandria retailers – Whole Dogz, Nature’s Nibbles, and From Head to Tail Grooming. Retailers interested in carrying the treats can contact Anne at email@example.com
Karen Johnson is the founder of PawsGo the Alexandria-based online community for people and their dogs, promoting an active lifestyle for both. PawsGo merchandise can be found online and locally at From Head to Tail Grooming and Spa, Bon Vivant Café and Farm Market, and Reunions. PawsGo will be selling Pawfectly Delicious Dog Treats at the Super Pet Expo March 15, 16, 17 at the Dulles Expo Center. Both PawsGo and Pawfectly Delicious will be at the Ides of Bark festival on March 24th at the Grist Mill Park in Alexandria.