NJ pet store opens its doors to employees with developmental disabilities

MEDFORD, NEW JERSEY (WPVI) – “People with developmental disabilities take pride in everything they do,” said Erica Richman. “They are always smiling. They are always happy. They absolutely deserve a chance.”

Richman is the director of purpose-appointed Pride Paws, which was founded a decade ago to find employment opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities.

“It teaches them independence. It teaches them self-awareness,” she said. “It teaches them to be social and public and everything in between.”

Dilara Brito, 18, still has fun cooking, managing inventory and calling customers.

“I love meeting dogs and cooking dog treats,” she said. “And it gave me the chance to learn new skills.”

Brito is part of the Lenape Regional High School District’s Transition to Adult program. They connected her with her work at Pride Paws and will later help her find a job that meets her interests after graduation.

“This population is often overlooked, but given a chance and in the right setting, they can make amazing employees,” said Kim Mileszko, a job developer at Lenape Regional High School District.

Whether through the Transition to Adult Program or other means, 25 students are currently enrolled at Pride Paws. Manager Erica Richman says she has had many success stories in the past to inspire them.

“I have an employee who just got a job at Wegmans as a cashier, another at Joy’s Hallmark in Marlton,” she said. “And I have a couple who, through Amazon who contacted us, work at Whole Foods.”

Richman thinks other businesses should also open their doors to people with any type of disability.

“They can do anything. They put their hearts into whatever they want to do,” she said. “They can conquer it. They want to do it. They want to work.”

To learn more about Pride Paws, visit their website.

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