Photograph by Kyle Norton
Above: Co-founders Amy Stern, Kelly Maffei and Kris Burbank
6 WAYS TO HELP OTHERS
1 DOG TREATS & NOVELTIES
Finding a job after graduating from school is hard enough; now imagine finding one if you have a disability. That challenge inspired WOOFGANG & CO., which hires adults with disabilities to make high-quality, all-natural dog treats and gift items for dog lovers. Co-founders Amy Stern, Kris Burbank and Kelly Maffei tailor the jobs to the interests and strengths of each employee. The work is meaningful, provides independence and self-worth, and lays the foundation for future employment.
Woofgang’s founders also have a soft spot for pampering pets, hence the focus on selling dog treats (complete with paw-print stamp), leashes, toys and blankets. “Woofgang workers make and package the signature Pupper Nutter Pattie dog treats weekday afternoons at Fairfield’s Bigelow Center for Senior Activities,” says Kris.
The founders have an instinct for getting attention. Woofgang has hosted a dog parade, a St. Patrick’s Day party, a Valentine’s Day Tea and a one-year birthday bash for local canine celebrity Piglet (a deaf and blind pink puppy who resembles his big-hearted Winnie the Pooh namesake). “Since launching in October 2017, the nonprofit has partnered with dozens of local businesses to raise awareness of its mission and raise funds,” says Kris. “Local support is vital to our survival.” Volunteers and donations welcomed. Shop: 1300 Post Rd.; woofgangco.org.
2 GIFTS, TREATS, TOTES & MORE
THE PILOT HOUSE special needs center provides adults who have special needs with the opportunity to develop work skills. The students learn about marketing, sales, production and product design as they create greeting cards, hand-poured soy candles, organic soap, bath bombs, home decor—as well as treats for dogs and horses. So while the students are getting valuable work experience, shoppers are getting adorable handmade items that make great gifts. The center—founded in 2006 by parents of children with special needs—provides programs for promoting self-expression, social interaction, life skills and artistic abilities. It is located at 240 Colony Street, but it also runs a working farm at 1230 Merwins Lane, where the students participate in a therapeutic horsemanship program and tend to the plants, as well as selling the farm-fresh, locally grown produce. Shop: thepilothouse.org/about-yes-we-can
3 HONEY TREATS & A BITE TO EAT
A local beekeeper had a sweet idea: create after-school programs to teach beekeeping skills to kids, ages seven to twelve, in Bridgeport. There are also programs that teach teens, ages sixteen to twenty, about preparing, selling and marketing honey products. THE PARK CITY HONEY CO.’s honey and honey-based foods are available at local farmers’ markets and at The Park City Honey Co. Cafe. The food at the deli is made by low-income local women, ages sixteen to thirty, who learn food prep as well as insights on the food industry and skills in networking, communication, sales and marketing. The business is located at 130 John Street, Bridgeport, and the hives are in Fairfield and Bridgeport. Shop: parkcityhoney.net; parkcityhoneycafe.com
4 BABY GIFTS, FOOD & MORE
Since 1962 THE FAIRFIELD WOMEN’S EXCHANGE in downtown Southport has supported the needs of women and children. Exchanges were founded in 1832 to help impoverished women find a way to help themselves, and exchanges began popping up across the country. Today, the shop is a landmark for locals, who find timelessly tasteful gifts, such as children’s clothing and toys, home décor, art, jewelry and specialty foods—many by artisans from around the world. This not-for-profit organization, run by volunteers, continues its tradition of providing a showcase for artists and donating proceeds to charities that promote the well-being of women and children. Shop: 332 Pequot Ave.; thefairfield exchange.com
5 CALENDARS & CARDS
THE KENNEDY CENTER is open for business, selling gift items created by its residents. Each month is filled with color and creativity expressed by the center’s artists, and proceeds benefit its arts therapy program. The center was founded in 1951 by Evelyn Kennedy and twelve other parents who challenged the status quo by establishing an educational and support system for their children with special needs and disabilities. Going strong today with a residential program, it also runs several skills-training programs, Shop: thekennedycenterinc.org/shop
6 BRACELETS & MORE
BRETT LAUREN jewelry is handcrafted with a purpose: Each piece is hand-assembled in San Diego by women employed from local residential homeless shelters. “Fashion can certainly have a conscience,” says founder Brett Krugman, “and that’s a beautiful thing.” Crediting the support from the women in her life, Brett founded her business in 2014 and sells her jewelry at boutiques and trunk shows across the country. A portion of the proceeds from each trunk show is donated to a charity of the host’s choice. In Fairfield, she partners with End Allergies Together (E•A•T; endallergiestogether.com)—the only nonprofit solely committed to funding food allergy research. Since May 2015 E.A.T. has committed more than $1.2 million. “I have been welcomed into the lives and homes of some amazing ladies who I am proud to now call friends,” says Brett, who created a line to support E•A•T. Shop: brettlauren.com