By Karen Johnson
Alexandria, VA – In 2016, Anne Tuccillo and her son Bryan were each at a professional crossroads. Anne was about to retire from the federal government and 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 a mitochondrial disease, a degenerative neurological disease that impacts his ability to walk, speak clearly, see well, and live independently.
But Anne wasn’t ready to stop working, and she was concerned about the lack of meaningful, paid employment opportunities for Bryan and adults like him with physical and developmental disabilities. Their dog Friday and some delicious ginger cookies led Anne and Bryan to the solution: Pawfectly Delicious Dog Treats.
The treats that got Friday’s tail wagging were first made by a colleague of Anne, Holly Langer-Evans, and given to the Tuccillos as a holiday gift. If Friday’s reaction to the treats was so positive, Bryan and Anne thought, why not launch a business and sell the delicious and healthful treats?
Making The Dream A Reality
Creating meaningful work and providing job training for adults with disabilities was always part of the plan. After baking many batches of treats for family and friends’ dogs, Anne and Bryan got an enthusiastic PawsUP! and were encouraged by Holly to form a nonprofit. In October 2017, Pawfectly Delicious Dog Treats received not-for-profit status.
Pawfectly Delicious Dog Treats are made from all natural ingredients. They are safe for humans and dogs to eat. (The recipe is actually a gingersnap.)
To minimize overhead, the treats are made in two stages: first, the dough is mixed in the kitchen at the Pulley Career Center in Fairfax County, through a partnership with the school’s Culinary Arts Program at West Potomac High School. The second stage takes place at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Alexandria, which donates their kitchen to Anne, Bryan, and the team. That’s where the treats are baked and packaged.
In May, Pawfectly Delicious received an award from the Pulley Center as Employer of the Year.
“We were so honored to be recognized and feel that we are fulfilling our mission of providing meaningful work and job training to differently abled young adults,” said Anne.
In October, Pawfectly Delicious won its first grant, from the Northern Virginia Realtors Association’s Care Foundation.
Treat-making operations are overseen by Charlie Flynt, who has many years of experience working with young adults with disabilities. Pawfectly Delicious has between 10 and 15 young adults engaged in all aspects of production, from baking and packaging to sales.
Even while the organization has grown, the last six months have been a challenge for the Pawfectly Delicious team. Bryan, the organization’s co-founder, was diagnosed with cancer.
As Bryan and Anne traveled to his treatments, Anne credits Charlie and Lead Kitchen Supervisor, Karen Svilich for stepping in to make sure operations ran smoothly.
“We have a great group of adult volunteers who come out each week, and we are so grateful for their help,” said Anne.
And Friday stayed on top of his jobs as top taste-tester and Bryan’s biggest fan.
You can find Pawfectly Delicious Dog Treats at www.pawfectlydelicious.org and at these Alexandria retailers: Whole Dogz, Nature’s Nibbles (both Del Ray and Hollin Hall), and From Head to Tail Grooming Spa. The treats will also soon be arriving to The Dog Park.
Retailers interested in carrying Pawfectly Delicious Dog Treats can contact Anne at [email protected]
Karen Johnson is the founder of PawsGo (www.PawsGo.com) 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.