Soon after Cassie Bratton left her abusive relationship, she got laid off from her job at a medical equipment company. With no income, limited skills and diminishing confidence, she was struggling to care for her three children. Enrolling in a dog grooming training program changed her life.
Pawsperity, formerly The Grooming Project, is a Kansas City based nonprofit that recruits parents who are struggling with issues, such as substance abuse recovery, unresolved legal cases and domestic violence, and trains them for a career in the pet grooming industry.
“Working with animals daily is a great way for students to learn to regulate their emotions,” says Abby Jaskolski, director of communications. “They take the emotional regulation they learn at school and apply it to how they interact with their children at home.”
Natasha Kirsch, whose mother was a groomer, founded The Grooming Project in 2016 to offer multiple career paths for struggling parents. But as the demand for groomers grew over the past few years, following the influx of pet parents, the nonprofit made grooming its main focus.
Five experienced pet grooming instructors, including two Pawsperity graduates, train the students for 6 to 9 months and upon graduation, the students have multiple regional job offers. Cassie works full time for a grooming salon in Missouri. She plans on staying at The Salon long-term and learning the logistics of operating a doggy daycare and working in dog therapy.
“The successes we see are incredible,” says Abby of the 103 students who have graduated. “Women will come in to us with their heads down and stress weighing on them. By the time they leave, they are proud of their accomplishments and excited for a career.”
Abby doesn’t see the demand slowing down anytime soon. Large pet brands that offer grooming services have inquired about employing Pawsperity graduates in their stores nationwide.
Pawsperity recently moved into a larger facility to offer market-rate grooming services and doggy daycare to the public, which helps fund the program. And staff plans to double the number of families they serve this year.
Abby says, “It’s a new mental space for our students to operate from, and the joy and excitement that comes from that simple shift can be incredible to see.”
To learn more, visit www.pawsperity.org