Latest Eisenhower Center News
Mar 8, 2021
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"Just because I have a disability doesn't mean I'm unable to work and help people." (Photo: Ebony Cox / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) Ike's Gourmet is a dog treat bakery which aims to provide the consumer with treats pups love but also provide the opportunity to do something fulfilling, by purchasing from an organization whose returns go back to its bakers: adults with disabilities. The company is a bakery and subsidiary of the nonprofit the Eisenhower Center in Milwaukee, which is a vocational training program for adults with disabilities. "We're opening our doors, constantly to our community's most vulnerable people, which is adults with significant disability. And what we do here is teach, train and inspire them to reach beyond their limits," said David Ordan, CEO of The Eisenhower Center. Amy lines up the dog treats on Wednesday, March 3, 2021, at Eisenhower Center, Inc., in Milwaukee. "I like working the dog treats," she said. "My favorite part is all the different flavors you get to do," she said. (Photo: Ebony Cox / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) The Eisenhower Center serves as a safe place for adults with disabilities who want to experience the workplace. Caregivers and parents of those with disabilities trust in the center to equip their clients with workplace skills and provide a place for people to go during the day. "We'll get a call from a parent, a caseworker, or group home who has clients who needs a place to be during the day, somewhere that they can stay active, use their mind, get training," said Ordan. The crew does most of their baking in the morning. On a recent Wednesday morning, two participants and Eisenhower staff were working diligently to produce blueberry muffin dog treats while having a little bit of fun in the process. The crew measures the ingredients, blends them in a mixer, rolls out the dough, cuts it into a shape, then bakes the treats and packages them for sale. A dog treat is being shaped as a star on Wednesday, March 3, 2021, at Eisenhower Center, Inc., located at 4425 W. Woolworth Ave., Milwaukee. (Photo: Ebony Cox / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) "I have a passion for dogs, so this is great. They treat you right, they treat you like royalty," said Doug, a program participant who asked that only his first name be used for privacy reasons. "Everyone is nice around here." He showed off the many different dog treat recipes that Ike's Gourmet has to offer, from apple pie, to banana bread, strawberry shortcake, and Christmas cookies — all recipes Ordan considers tried and true family recipes. The recipe process involved researching healthy recipes for dogs. The group did research prior to production on what veterinarians consider the most healthy options, from all-natural fruit treats, to organic, vegan, grain-free and gluten-free treats. "Danielle Maurer, who formerly worked in the bakery, was instrumental in testing and creating our recipes. Eliot Branding, our design and marketing consultant, was involved in choosing popular flavors and creating the packaging and concept of the treats," said Ordan. Family is a theme around the Eisenhower Center. "They want good health for their family, and that definitely extends to their dogs," said Ordan. Amy, another program participant, enjoys being a part of the crew. Her favorite thing to do is roll out the dough and sometimes cut out the designs. She also preferred to use her first name for privacy reasons and communicated through the use of an American sign language interpreter. "A few times things go wrong and you have to start over, but that's OK," said Amy. Ordan says the Eisenhower Center's board recognized a need to create a sustainable business model for the nonprofit. The board decided to move forward with Ike's concept, and the implementation was put in place by Branding. Ordan recognizes that the dog treat market is large, but knew the organization could find a clientele that wanted their choice to matter, he said. They partnered with Petphoria, a Madison pet shop, and Three Paws Gourmet, a local dog treat company, to make their treats, too. These partnerships, and the many orders that have been placed since they began baking in September, has put Ike's Gourmet in a good financial standing, said Ordan. The Eisenhower "IKE" Center which specializes in vocational rehabilitation for adults with disabilities uses their own special chefs, adults with disabilities, to create dog treats on Wednesday, March 3, 2021, in Milwaukee. (Photo: Ebony Cox / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) "Business is going very well – almost too well. We almost have more orders than we can fill, which is a good problem to have. That’s why we’re working to build a professional bakery that can handle large volumes of orders." Visit Ike's Gourmet's website at ikesgourmet.com to place an order. Contact Drake Bentley at (414) 722-3811 or DBentley1@gannett.com . Follow him on Twitter at @drake_bentley . Our subscribers make this reporting possible. Please consider supporting local journalism by subscribing to the Journal Sentinel at jsonline.com/deal .