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Daybreak’s pet treat program gives job training to homeless youth

Daybreak was originally founded in Dayton in 1975, as a shelter to meet the needs of homeless and runaway youth. But according to Linda Kramer, who has been the CEO of the organization since 1997, the Dayton area has seen an upsurge of homeless young adults, aged 16 – 24 in recent years.

“Many of them are, in essence, being kicked out of their homes,” Kramer said. “What we have found is that a lot of these kids are pretty good at getting jobs and then losing them within a week. They just don’t have the skills to maintain jobs and since most have very little education they end up being homeless.”

Kramer and her staff recognized this trend and realized they needed to do something to stop this cycle and that educating them in a classroom was only part of the solution.

“A lot of these kids have personal histories of abuse or neglect,” Kramer said. “They didn’t have any experience with work and were being fired because they didn’t understand that they had to get to work on time or that you don’t talk back to your boss.”

The team at Daybreak looked at different types of social enterprise ideas and knew they had to come up with something the kids would be interested in doing so they would stay with it.

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“Many of our kids liked to help out in the shelter kitchen,” Kramer said. “Especially when the cook was baking. We started reading and saw that the pet industry was really booming and decided we could be baking pet treats.”

The concept of Lindy & Company was born from that moment. Kramer reached out to Ashley’s Pastry Shop in Oakwood and met with owner Theresa Hammons about helping develop the first recipes.

“Theresa jumped on board and helped us get started,” Kramer said. “We baked out of their bakeries and they helped us that first year until we were ready to start our own store.”

The name “Lindy” comes from an anonymous investor who asked that the business be named for his golden retriever, Lindy. “We had a few other investors,” Kramer said. “And we had a vacant building on Wayne Avenue in Dayton that we were able to remodel and we opened in the fall of 2012.”

Lindy’s employs youth in the Daybreak program and they gain real-life on-the-job training. These days, 44 youth are employed between 15 and 20 hours per week and paid minimum wage.

And this month, after several years of constant growth and with the popularity of their 10 different dog treats, Lindy & Company has expanded and opened a new bakery on Patterson Avenue in Dayton with a goal to hire 100 youth per year.

“Lindy’s is just part of what we do,” Kramer said. “We are moving the entire employment program there including the employment lab, loading dock and bakery and it’s all on one level.”

Having the ability to work at a real job before transitioning out of a shelter has enabled youth like Arielle to be successful after she moved on with her life.

“I was unfulfilled in the job I was in,” Arielle said. “Working at Lindy’s was an opportunity that afforded me a chance to enhance my skills and expand my resume while I searched for another, more self-sustaining and competitive wage job. I recognized how much I was giving back to Daybreak and this made the job even more empowering.”

Arielle said she increased her work skills, learned how to manage her workload, arrive on time, and interact with different types of people and to be accountable for her work.

According to Kramer, Daybreak tries to track youth after they leave the program for at least a year, to see how they are doing in their work and personal lives.

“These kids have no support and their counterparts who are not homeless graduate and move back home,” Kramer said. “We are going to help these kids and we are seeing that they are holding on to jobs and they are going back to school. If we can make a difference, I’d rather have them become contributing members of society. It’s better for them and for the community.”

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