Disability activist and American poet Robert M. Hensel once said, “There is no greater disability in society, than the inability to see a person as more.” Two long-time friends are on a mission to change that.
Inside the kitchen at Central Reformed Church in Grand Rapids are people hard at work producing, of all things, dog biscuits. And joy.
The operation at Beer City Dog Biscuits is a little different. It provides vocational training and jobs for adults with developmental disabilities. And the masterminds behind the operation are two mothers who want more for their sons. Leslie Hooker’s son is blind; Suzanne Wilcox’s son is on on the autism spectrum.
“They’re so proud of what they’re doing, and we’re so proud of them,” said Suzanne Wilcox, co-owner of Beer City Dog Biscuits in Grand Rapids.
It all starts with four simple ingredients: peanut butter, flour, eggs, and spent grain donated by Founder’s Brewery. But this recipe wouldn’t be complete without the dedicated and passionate “brew bakers.”
“It’s been a great experience just a working with all these great people,” said Wilcox’s friend and business partner Leslie Hooker.
“We felt that it was really important to find something substantial for them,” Hooker said. “We did a lot of research and realized that there was not any kind of true program to be working for them in a consistent basis and having some fulfillment and a purpose.”
And that’s how Beer City Dog Biscuits was born, to help bridge the gap of the some 70 percent of those with disabilities who are unemployed or underemployed.