When Vicki Sylvester, the CEO of Community Based Services, heard that supervised workplaces, otherwise known as sheltered workshops, for people with disabilities were closing all over New York State, she was devastated.
“Many disabled people were displaced from their workshop and had nowhere to go for work,” Sylvester recalls. “Sometimes they are perceived as needing too much help, not being able to keep up, and requiring more supervision than the average worker.” Determined to fulfill the need for local jobs, she though a dog treat company was the perfect solution.
Sylvester has a background in business administration, special education, and psychology and has been working for Community Based Services since the agency started in 1981. Community Based Services (CBS) is a not-for-profit organization that provides individualized care for people with autism and developmental disabilities. Sylvester was named CEO in 1998. After discovering the shortage of workshops in New York State, she partnered with Allan Katz, the director of food services at CBS. It was Katz’s idea to bake and package homemade dog treats and thus Good Reasons Dog Treats was born.
Good Reasons prioritizes an “integrated workforce” that employs a 50:50 ratio of people of all abilities. “We all deserve the same opportunities,” said Kelly Apfel, the communications and development manager for the brand. “Starting our own company was the best way to create the most jobs.”
Katz takes care of the dog treat side of the business, putting the skills he learned from the Culinary Institute of America to good use. He crafts all the recipes and sourced natural, local ingredients such as veggies, flours, and quality meats. The treats are named after dogs of Good Reasons employees: Mr. T’s Beggin’ Beef Bone, Hudson’s Pumpkin PB Pieces, and Charlie’s Cheddar Chomps are all featured front and center on the site.
In 2018, the Good Reasons mission expanded. Not only do employees bake and pack dog treats, but they also package goods for other companies. Good Reasons has caught the attention of philanthropy groups from around the state and received grants and donations like a brand-new oven and mixer. Impact100 Westchester, a women’s collective giving organization, even gifted Good Reasons with $85,000!
With a new, spacious facility, Good Reasons can produce more dog treats and create even more jobs. Locals can spot Good Reasons dog treats in several Whole Food stores throughout New York and Connecticut, and all of the hand-packed merchandise can always be found online at goodreasons.com.
Today, Good Reasons provides steady employment for over thirty individuals.
“Good Reasons helped me work more, and helped me put money into my bank account, says Cheryl Jackson, Good Reasons employee. “It helps me learn to set goals and learn to focus on my work. I like coming to work with my friends and keeps me busy.”