By Beverly Drapalik
What can be better than young people, dogs, meaningful work and paying it forward?
For Brewhaus Dog Bones, paying it forward becomes “paw it forward.”
Not long ago, Lisa Graham visited San Diego and learned that dog bones, pizza dough, pretzels and bread could be made using whole-spent grains from the beer brewing process.
About a year ago, she started Brewhaus Dog Bones in New Richmond, a company which helps young adults with disabilities develop vocational skills and have fun, meaningful project-based learning opportunities.
Graham’s career as a clinical social worker at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Shriners Burns Hospital, Christ and Mercy Anderson Hospitals naturally caused her to think about people. Especially on her mind was her daughter, Natalie, who has a genetic abnormality.
The perfect storm of Graham’s thoughts became Brewhaus.
Brewhaus Dog Bones are small-batch, hand-crafted, oven-baked treats made from whole grains sourced from local breweries.
The treats contain only four ingredients: donated brewery barley malt grains, natural peanut butter, brown rice flour and farm-fresh eggs. Grains and eggs are locally sourced.
Graham’s neighbor, Margie, 80, raises the chickens that lay the eggs. When Margie’s hens don’t lay enough eggs, Brewhaus buys eggs from an epilepsy organization.
The business model includes breweries, schools and vendors, all of which are increasing in number weekly.
The most important people in the business are the workers — the students who work almost daily to make the treats and stock the stores.
Young adults with disabilities usually stay enrolled in high school until age 22, and the bakery provides a real-world business experience and meaningful work.
Graham said, “My goal really was to create a social enterprise program … for project-based learning, as part of a comprehensive approach to help prepare these young adults for the transition to adult services and community-supported employment.”
At Sycamore High School, Esther Adams, the intervention specialist, talks endlessly about her days with the students. They even partner with the Teaching Profession Academy at Sycamore.
Adams said, “Students become part of something bigger than themselves, working in a real business. They take ownership and produce a good product.”
She said she sees students blossom on a daily basis, because they have taken on specific roles in the kitchen.
Students must clock in, learn their assignment for the day, assess what ingredients are needed in the kitchen and, in general, engage in all of the employment skills they will need in future jobs.
Some students will double or triple a recipe for a large order using math skills; some will use fine motor skills and strategically place stickers on bags. Student managers and “quality control” make sure that each bag weighs between 6 and 6.5 ounces.
Not only do students make the dog bones, but they are involved in invoices, loading, delivery and sales. They are not stuck in the kitchen. They get to see their product to completion, and the interaction with vendors and breweries is a priceless life skill.
At Oak Hills High School, Debbie Stallo, the intervention specialist, has witnessed some very enthusiastic students. One young man stays busy and wants to do every task until he sees that a package is complete. One young woman is known for making the “neatest” dog bones.
Lisa Martin has charge of the transitional students at New Richmond.
“Students work during the school year,” Martin said. “When orders are needed during the summer, some of the students, as well as students needing service hours, help complete the treats and make deliveries.”
New Richmond has the only classroom with a commercial kitchen, and the administration is working on a room that will become devoted to office tasks such as invoicing.
Graham said she is grateful for the support.
The valuable educational component of this company is that each school can tailor the level of involvement to a student population. As long as students reach their potential for community employment and discover their own strengths, they are able to move out of public school and to navigate his world.
The valuable business component is that the company is a nonprofit organization. All of the proceeds return to the company because there is no cost for each school, each brewery and each student.
In fact, except for supplies, ingredients and Web fees, the company has no costs.
According to Graham, breweries have been extremely supportive, asking how they can contribute to the education of the students and the success of the company. Schools have also been extremely supportive as Brewhaus fills educational programming and teachers design lesson plans.
An important new endeavor is a partnership with Clovernook Center For The Blind and Visually Impaired. Brewhaus and the center will provide paid employment for participants, a beginning to another business model using brewery grains.
Graham’s passion has become a meaningful reality for students all over the Cincinnati area. Her goal is to eventually have a freestanding “Brewhaus Bakery” — integrated within a brewery — and a “Brewhaus Brewbus,” a food truck for dogs, that supports paid employment for very special adults.
And, needless to say, special dogs in this region will enjoy treats as Brewhaus Dog Bones continues to paw it forward.
Beverly Drapalik lives in Wilmington with her husband, Jeff. They also live with a dog, a cat, a parrot, chickens and bees.
At New Richmond Schools, Natalie Graham, Lisa Graham’s daughter, shared the kitchen process. Students:
• Mix the four ingredients in a large bowl.
• Place the dough into molds.
• Bake the treats at 300 F for 1 hour.
• Turn the oven to 200 F for 30 minutes.
• Cool the treats for about 30 minutes.
• Count and weigh treats.
• Work on several steps in the packaging process.
Brewhaus Dog Bones
Address: 1254 Fagins Run Road, New Richmond, OH 45157