NJ pet store opens doors for employees with developmental disabilities

MEDFORD, NEW JERSEY (WPVI) -- "People with developmental disabilities, they show pride in everything that they do," said Erica Richman. "They're always smiling. They're always happy. They absolutely deserve a chance."

Richman is the manager of the purposefully-named Pride Paws, which was founded a decade ago in order to find employment opportunities for adults with developmental disabilities.

"It teaches them independence. It teaches them self awareness," she said. "It teaches them how to be social and public and everything that's in-between."

18-year-old Dilara Brito always has a fun time baking, managing inventory, and ringing up customers.

"I like meeting dogs and baking dog treats," she said. "And it's given 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 job at Pride Paws and will later help her find a job that meets her interests upon graduating.

"This demographic is often overlooked, but if given a chance and in the right setting, they can make unbelievable employees," said Kim Mileszko, a job developer with Lenape Regional High School District.

Whether through the Transition to Adult Program or by other means, 25 students are currently on the roster at Pride Paws. Manager Erica Richman says she has had many success stories in the past to serve as their inspirations.

"I have one 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 have, through Amazon reaching out to us, are working at Whole Foods."

Richman thinks other businesses should also open doors to individuals with any kind of disability.

"They can do anything. They put their hearts to anything that 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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