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Poughkeepsie Journal Features Good Reasons

Karen Maserjian Shan
5:41 p.m. EDT April 5, 2015

Poughkeepsie Journal Features Good Reasons

Courtesy Photo

She wanted to find ways to employ people with developmental disabilities. But instead of seeking out available opportunities, she created a company to employ both disabled and fully abled people together. Called Good Reasons, the business is staffed with people that have autism and other developmental disabilities plus those without a disability in the production of all-natural dog treats from its Poughkeepsie and Brewster, Putnam County, locations.

“We’re really about making jobs; creating jobs,” said Sylvester, who has a doctorate in administration and management and is CEO of Community Based Services in North Salem, Westchester County, an agency that provides care and support services for people with autism and other developmental services, and the parent company of Good Reasons.

Sylvester has the right idea. Only 17.6 percent of disabled people were employed in 2013, compared to 64 percent of those without a disability, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor. While most disabled people are 65 or older and, therefore less likely to be employed, on the whole the disabled population is at a disadvantage when it comes to work, with 26.8 percent of those ages 16 to 64 employed in 2013.

At Good Reasons, all employees are paid minimum wage or higher and must be able to transport themselves to and from work, and focus on the task at hand for six hours with breaks. Work involves ingredient mixing, product extruding and baking for the manufacture of all-natural dog treats, plus the packing of the products, consisting of weighing, sealing and boxing. Four of the company’s six biscuit varieties are made in Poughkeepsie and two are made in Brewster.

Sylvester said working with an integrated staff requires a higher level of tolerance, support and training than usual, along with the understanding that some people are going to need more attention.

“Anyone that’s employed understands that they’re sometimes going to act as a coach,” she said, where fully abled employees encourage and support the developmentally disabled staff as needed.

Already, the Good Reasons staff is making headway. The company, which was established in July 2014 and employs 10 people combined in both locations, about half of whom have developmental disabilities, is selling products in close to 40 locations in the region and beyond, including local Adams Fairacre Farms stores, four Hannaford supermarkets (including one in Poughkeepsie) and 130 Petco stores. Recently the Good Reasons team completed a 15,000-bag order for BarkBox, a NYC-based company that delivers a variety of boxed all-natural doggie treats and toys to subscribers on a monthly basis. Most of the Good Reasons’ order for BarkBox was manufactured and packaged at the Poughkeepsie site.

Traci Hegeman, assistant store manager for Adams Fairacre Farms in Poughkeepsie, said Good Reasons dog treats are being sold in each of the company’s stores, including Poughkeepsie, Wappingers Falls, Kingston in Ulster County and Newburgh in Orange County.

“We love the fact that Good Reasons provides job opportunities for people with all abilities,” Hegeman said by email. “The locally made dog treats make it a perfect fit in all four of our locations here at Adams Fairacre Farms. We take great pride in having a company like Good Reasons doing good for the community available here on our shelves.”

Sylvester said the work environment at Good Reasons is enjoyable, with a happy rapport among the whole staff.

“We’re doing really well for a brand new company,” she said. “It’s all good for our mission, which is to create jobs for people with disabilities. We’re really excited about how the community has embraced the company.”

Karen Maserjian Shan is a freelance writer: mkshan@optonline.net

Small Business Focus

Recruiting candidates with disabilities

  • Conduct targeted outreach, including collaboration with community partners that have connections to qualified candidates such as nonprofits, national and local disability organizations, and federally funded state and local employment programs for people with disabilities.
  • Form community linkages which are alliances between an employer and organization that provides appropriate employment or referral candidates for greater workplace diversity. For information, see www.askearn.org/refdesk/Recruitment/Community_Resource_Linkages
  • Post job announcements in targeted sites, such as job boards for disabled people, disability-related publications, and with disability organizations. Two national job boards for people with disabilities are the Workforce Recruitment Program:http://wrp.jobs/employers/ and the Talent Acquisition Portal: https://tapability.org/
  • Start an internship program for people with disabilities, an effective and cost-efficient recruitment method. Internship programs for disabled people have been shown to lead to 4.5 times more hires than without such a program.

Source: Recruiting, Hiring, Retaining and Promoting People with Disabilities,www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/employing_people_with_disabilities_toolkit_february_3_2015_v4.pdf

For more information on hiring, working with and supporting people with disabilities in the workplace, visit the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Disability Employment Policy: http://www.dol.gov/odep