National Pet Month Boosts Kansas City Initiative

May is National Pet Month. And if you’re a pet lover and owner, you get it. Our pets are part of the family. Sometimes, they’re more sensitive to our needs than even our human family. After all, they greet us when we come home, they comfort us when we’re down and they know just when to nudge us into play and exercise.

Not surprisingly, 68 percent of U.S. households own a pet. That’s 84.6 million homes! In 1988, only a little more than half of U.S. households owned a pet. And in the age-old debate of dogs vs. cats…dogs seem to be the favorite. Those statistics appear to ring true – but on a much smaller scale – in the Kansas City region. In fact, inside the Olathe, Kansas-based pet treats (and more!) business, PawsAbilities, a small contingent of special individuals is serving our canine friends and family.

PawsAbilities is a nonprofit organization designed to provide employment training to young adults with intellectual disabilities. The program operates out of its Olathe retail storefront, online and at special corporate and community events, such as the Olathe Farmers Market and Just For Her Event. Paws Participants handcraft the Paws inventory of specialty dog treats, custom doggie bandanas and old school pet toys. Each participant learns the skills to make the products, and then learns the skills to manage the inventory, stage the products, complete customer transactions, market the business, and interact with customers and more.

Each year, pet owners spend an average $72 on pet treats and another $47 on pet toys. Small businesses, such as PawsAbilities count on the purchasing power within their local and online communities. PawsAbilities’ boutique-style setting and innovative products add to its appeal.

Yet, it’s our employees who really make the difference. Our human customers love to chat and see our operation in person. Our loyal, four-legged friends have learned to sniff out a good deal and a worthwhile effort.

We encourage you and your pet to check it out for yourselves by visiting the PawsAbilities store in person or online. That keen sense of smell will awaken your senses to our products and the possibilities for the young adults we serve.

Olathe Realtor’s Charitable Giving

Charities have a special place in the hearts and minds of our nation and our community. It’s no surprise that everyone has a favorite charity. Whether it’s supporting cancer research, homelessness, a church or memorial fund, there are plenty of charities from which to choose.

While most realtors give their clients a closing gift, Olathe realtor Kelly Weyer of ReeceNichols has found a creative way to honor her favorite charity and raise awareness among others. Weyer serves on the board of Inclusion Connections, the Kansas City-based nonprofit designed to help individuals with intellectual disabilities build social relationships, learn workplace skills and, eventually, live independently. As part of its workforce training, the organization founded PawsAbilities in Olathe. PawsAbilities makes artisanal dog treats, handcrafted doggie bandanas and one-of-a-kind dog toys.

One thing that separates Kelly from other realtors is her practice of making a charitable donation as a closing gift. With each real estate transaction she closes (buy or sell side), Kelly gives a donation (calculated to the size of the transaction) to a charity of her client’s choosing. Many charities have benefitted from Kelly’s practice, but none more so than Inclusion Connections and PawsAbilites. That’s because many of her clients don’t support a particular charity, so they’re open to suggestions. As a board member and a strong advocate, Kelly is quick to recommend Inclusion Connections. Additionally, if someone refers Kelly to a client, she will make a donation on behalf of both parties in equal amounts at closing.

Inclusion Connections and PawsAbilities appreciates Kelly’s gift of time and financial support. It has allowed us to serve the needs of many Kansas City-area individuals who want to live, work, play and contribute to their local community.

If you are inspired by Kelly, tell us your unique and meaningful story of charitable giving. Simply click the title of this blog and leave your reply.

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month

March is Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month. For Olathe, Kansas-based PawsAbilities and our parent organization, Inclusion Connections, it’s an important designation. The month was designed to bring attention to the men and women who live in communities big and small, such as the many communities that make up the Kansas City area.

We, too, want to bring attention to that population of individuals. However, we want to do more than generate awareness. PawsAbilities wants to focus on the numbers and then take action. Statistics show:

· People with intellectual or developmental disabilities have better on-time and workplace attendance records than their comparable, non-disabled colleagues.

· Hiring people with physical or intellectual disabilities can help a company’s bottom line through reduced turnover and increased productivity.

· Companies that hire employees with a disability are eligible for tax incentives.

Working off those positive statistics, PawsAbilities designed and built a workforce training program for young adults with intellectual disabilities. What began as an artisan dog treat business has grown to include handcrafted dog toys and doggie bandanas, as well as other related pet-lover items. PawsAbilities now operates from a retail storefront in Olathe, where our participants learn valuable workforce skills, such as manufacturing, packaging, distribution, sales and marketing, and inventory control. We even added a component to allow our customers to order a monthly PawsAbilities subscription of dog treats.

How’s that for Developmental Disabilities Awareness? People in our community can and do contribute to our city, our society and our business. #DevelopmentalDisabilitiesMonth #PawsAbilities

Kansas City Companies Cheer on Gala FashionAbility

Inclusion Connections and PawsAbilities have witnessed an incredible outpouring of support for one of its primary fundraisers, Gala FashionAbility 2018. We have seen many Kansas City-area companies and businesses step up to sponsor our Feb. 22, 2018 event. And we couldn’t be more touched.

This is an incredible sign of acceptance and inclusion in our hometown. People with intellectual disabilities who live in Olathe and Overland Park are working hard to live, work and play in their own community. With the programming provided by Inclusion Connections and the job training skills of its sister organization, PawsAbilities, it’s becoming a reality.

Gala FashionAbility 2018 is an evening of food, fun and fashion. Attendees enjoy hot appetizers, wine, beer and a special cocktail mixed for the evening by Presenting Sponsor Tito’s Handmade Vodka. But the best part is watching the teens and young adults we serve strut the catwalk in clothing that reflects their personal style and charisma. As you watch them flaunt their fashion selection, you will hear a little bit about each one. Each has hopes and dreams for continuing education, a meaningful job, loving relationships and independent living. It’s what we all want.

Inclusion Connections and PawsAbilities are working in tandem to make those dreams a reality with fun social outings, jam-packed summer camps, special classes for advocacy and independent living and, of course, job skills.

If you are a Kansas City-area business, we hope you will consider supporting this charitable endeavor that is close to home. Simply visit Gala FasionAbility 2018 to sign up to be a sponsor, purchase a table for your employees or individual tickets.

Hometown Giving

Self reflection rings loud this time of year. We question where we’ve been and where we’re going in the year ahead. Part of that reflection includes a desire to give back.

For most of us, the desire to give is strong…and the choices are plentiful. Many smaller, community-oriented organizations, however, stand in the shadows of larger charities. These smaller organizations are doing good work, and sometimes performing miracles. Olathe-based Inclusions Connections and its sister organization, IC PawsAbilities are two such nonprofits.

Inclusion Connections and PawsAbilities serve young adults in suburban Kansas City with intellectual disabilities. For these individuals, it’s a challenge to find employment, camaraderie and even a meaningful connection to their own towns and cities. These are the individuals who attended and graduated from Johnson County, Kansas schools, shop in our local stores and dine in our local restaurants. Their families are the face of our local community, living, working, and playing in Olathe and Overland Park. And yet, individuals with intellectual disabilities struggle to find the same foothold as their families.

Through years of fundraising, both organizations have developed solid programming to give these individuals robust social opportunities through Inclusion Connections and valuable employment training through PawsAbilities’ artisanal pet products. Our two major fundraisers — FashionAbility and Bowl-A-Rama — contribute to the daily operations of both organizations.

Still, we rely on the generosity of businesses and individuals in our community. A small donation can make an enormous impact. For example, $25 provides essential art supplies, $100 provides transportation to summer camp, and $250 provides a month of job training for our Paws Olathe workforce.

Your heart no doubt has many favorite charities. However, if you are looking for a way to make a big impact in your own hometown, please consider a year-end gift to Inclusion Connections or PawsAbilities at IC PawsAbilities Donate.

Happy New Year, and we thank you for your consideration!

Gifting with Purpose

With only a few days left, the quest to find the perfect gift becomes more challenging. You want to find something different, something useful and most of all, something meaningful. Big box stores and online sites offer the basics and meet some of the requirements…some of the time. Yet, it’s often independent, small retailers who offer the most interesting and innovative gifts.

A gift from PawsAbilities is both functional and meaningful. Our core products are made in true artisanal fashion – one by one, crafted with care and infused with passion. From indulgent dog biscuits to doggie bandanas and old school rope toys, each product has been planned and produced by a member of our community with an intellectual disability. That’s the meaningful piece of this story. When you purchase a PawsAbilities product, you are supporting employment training and social opportunities for people in your own backyard.

Pet products remain number one on Santa’s list. Individuals and families love to honor their most cherished four-legged friends. The family dog is the symbol of unconditional love. The endearing term, “man’s best friend,” is an understatement. The family dog brings more than friendship. He or she brings love, companionship, and warmth to every household.

People with intellectual disabilities bring a unique gift to their communities, as well. We invite you to stop by our store or view our products online in your quest to find the perfect gift this week.

KCP&L District Wicked Wine Walk Supports PawsAbilities

On November 4, 2017, throngs of wine lovers and foodies sipped their favorite beverages and noshed on delectable bites from local restaurants, all in part to support PawsAbilities. The popular annual Wicked Wine Walk’s proceeds will help support job skills training program for young adults with developmental disabilities. Charitable spirit was on full display at the event, with attendees generously supporting a raffle for baskets of wines, liquors and PawsAbilities dog treats, toys, and bandanas. A display of PawsAbilities products was also available for purchase.

Participants in PawsAbilities make a variety of dog treats from scratch ingredients, including peanut butter and grain free biscuits. Other job skills are taught including sewing skills, creating themed doggie bandanas featuring KC Royals, KC Chiefs and other sports fabrics. Throughout the year holiday themed fabrics are utilized, giving buyers fun gift options for their favorite pooches.

Thanks to all who attended in support of the Wicked Wine Walk, and to those who worked to make the event a great success.

Inclusion Connections and PawsAbilities

Executive Director Debbie Horn founded Inclusion Connections in 2013 in response to the need she saw in her son, Matthew, who has Down syndrome. There were few educational and social opportunities in Kansas City, and she believed his lack of job skills would limit Matthew from reaching his full potential.

Today, Inclusion Connections provides thousands of hours of year-round opportunities for teens and young adults with developmental disabilities in Kansas City. An Activity Center in Olathe, KS is the heart of IC, and a second group is located in Liberty, MO. Programs focus on: healthy nutrition, cooking and exercise; access to art, theater and music; job skills training and self-advocacy classes; and summer camps in both locations.

PawsAbilities program, implemented in 2016, offers young adults job skills training with the opportunity to make and sell dog treats, toys and bandanas. Participants also have the opportunity to help run a storefront in Olathe. Today, several local banks purchase PawsAbilities treats to give out in their drive throughs, and products are available in a variety of retail locations and veterinary offices. We have a booth at the Olathe Farmers Market each summer, and engage in other Kansas City events including the well-known Overland Park Holiday Boutique. Of course, PawsAbilities products can be purchased online as well.

With the help of many local businesses, individuals, and foundations, Inclusion Connections and PawsAbilities continue to grow and prosper! More information can be found at ICPawsAbilities.org or ICkc.org.