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'Beyond Bones' creating job opportunities for adults with disabilities

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Posted at 5:38 PM, Jan 28, 2022

WAYLAND, Mich. — Years after retiring from a career in special education, Robin Lavender is back at work helping adults with disabilities.

Lavender teamed up with The Arc in Allegan County, a nonprofit that advocates for adults with disabilities, to create Beyond Bones.

The business employs adults with disabilities to bake and sell all-natural dog treats.

"This is way beyond just baking the bones. This is, you know, providing that inclusive time in the community," Lavender told FOX 17 News. "It's to fulfill their lives, to be even more accepted and have a purpose and somewhere to go and look forward to. So it's way beyond just baking the bones, you know; it just means so much more."

Beyond Bones began selling treats last July and has quickly grown operations into two locations.

"We have 17 individuals employed, paid employment. So they're all part-time employees. And we bake four days a week, Monday through Thursday. And now we have two locations. So we have this location here in Wayland. And we also bake at a location in Allegan," explained Stacy Engelsman, executive director of The Arc in Allegan County. "I think it shows how much of the need there was that everybody, the bakers, all of our volunteers and the community have just gotten behind it tremendously."

Lavender was able to create the business, after being approached to be on the board for The Arc.

Having two dogs herself, she realized how profitable a venture into the pet food industry could be.

Beyond Bones makes all natural treats, using simple ingredients like apples, peanut butter and cinnamon.

Now, Lavender has dreams of opening up a retail front in Allegan, and expanding to include dog walking and a doggy day care.

"It just makes my heart smile. And it makes me happy and to be with these guys, again, so much fun. And it's so pleasing to see that they're having fun; they're making some money. They feel good about themselves. I'll tell you, it brings tears to my eyes every time I back up and look and watch. And it is just awesome," said Lavender. "And yeah, it does fulfill me big time, you know, to be retired and being able to do something like this, you know, towards the end your life? Oh my gosh, it doesn't get any better. Not at all."

You can find Beyond Bones' products at local farmer's markets, Crane Orchards, Pawz N Clawz in Allegan and online.

As the FOX 17 and Lake Michigan Credit Union Pay it Forward Person of the Month, Lavender is receiving a $550 prize.

To learn more about Beyond Bones, visit the website here.

Know someone who should be featured next month? Nominate them here.

Meet Lisa Hoeve, our December 2021 Pay it Forward Person of the Month.

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