The ECHO Barkery last week hosted a dedication ceremony for Pearson Smith Realty after the company donated $25,000 for a new machine to streamline and exponentially increase the production of their dog biscuits.
For more than 50 years the nonprofit ECHO, based in Leesburg, has supported adults with disabilities with training, day support, transportation, and job placements, seeking to empower adults with disabilities to be active in their community and achieve their own successes. The Barkery is one of ECHO’s newest projects—a bakery where people with disabilities are cooking up handmade dog treats from scratch with natural, healthy ingredients. From mixing to baking to packaging, the biscuits are made in the Barkery’s kitchen in Ashburn.
It was born in part out of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which ECHO had a two-month shutdown, and its community partner worksites faced shutdowns that were much longer. So to keep their participants active and engaged, ECHO shifted to making its own employment, to both make the organization more self-sustaining and provide that assistance to its clients.
One of those projects was the Barkery, with 16 jobs for participants without having to rely on community partner businesses. But as the business grew, the need to increase their production became evident.
The donation from Pearson Smith not only helped increase production, but also made those 16 jobs sustainable, according to ECHO.
“With Pearson Smith’s donation, the newly purchased machine will automate and streamline the cutting process of the biscuits. This production enhancement will now allow for more time for additional vocational training,” said ECHO CEO Paul Donohue. “Tasks like dough making, labeling, packaging, baking, and running the new machine contribute to our goal of having the ECHO Barkery become a comprehensive workforce development academy in addition to being a social enterprise. I am so grateful to have the support of Pearson Smith to help us make this goal a reality.”
“Pearson Smith Realty is proud to help support ECHO and the incredible work they do for our community,” said Pearson Director of Agent Culture Scott Ailing. “Their tireless care and innovative empowerment for their participants is truly an inspiration. We are honored and humbled to be a part of their story.”