Lissie was finishing her second year at Secondary Life Skills, a class that helps students develop skills to become independent as possible. She had blossomed; learning and acquiring skills that had seemed unattainable when she started school 16 years earlier.  Melissa was now at that magical level where she could learn was interested in exploring new horizons and growing into a contributing member of society.

Sister Johnelle began looking around the community to see what businesses might work for Lissie.  It had to be something that interested her.  Only two possibilities seemed worth exploring; a daycare center for children with developmental disabilities or anything to do with pets, especially dogs. One day Sister Johnelle phoned their dear friend, Marilyn Kind who advocates for people with alcohol related birth defects.  Providentially, she was thinking of starting a dog walking business at the very same time!

Marilyn, Melissa and Sister Johnelle decided to establish a business partnership.  After 3 months of intense planning we began Wacheeista's Walk A Dog Service.  This dog walking business was quite unique in that the monies earned from walking dogs supported out efforts to educate people about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effect.  Melissa lives with the daily challenges of FAS and expertly shares her story with others by giving free presentations to students and the community at large.  Melissa most recently spoke at the Idaho Governors DD Conference on Self Employment in Boise Idaho in April.  She will be giving a presentation, Melissa's Circle of Life at the Humility of Mary Center in Davenport, Iowa on June 28.  She will take part in a camp, Students Like Me, in Grand Rapids, MI where she will share the helps and hurts in developing her business in August.

At Christmas we decided to give our canine customers homemade doggie treats specially wrapped and decorated.  We made extra and easily sold them to our dog loving friends with orders for more with such an unexpected yet successful result, we talked seriously about getting into the gourmet dog biscuit business.  Thus the seed was planted.  Now where were the resources needed to help our seed dream root and grow?

Though Ellen Condon and Roger Shelley at the Montana Rural Institute on Disabilities, I was told about monies available from the Montana Jobs Training Partnership Act.  This project is a result of President Clinton's initiative to equalize the employment rates of people with disabilities as compared to people without disabilities.  We wrote a grant proposal and presented it to Patty Kramarich at New Directions, the vendor for the program.   With help from Lisa Newman, a Project Specialist in Helena, we succeeded in getting the grant making Melissa the sole proprietor of her newest venture.  She now had monies to invest in Lissie's Luv Yums, her gourmet dog treats made from Montana's golden wheat.

In October of that year we hired KFBB to make the best commercial ever.  Each year we air the commercial between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Not only is this a gift reminder for your favorite pooch but an opportunity to spread Melissa's message that pregnant women must not drink. It included our dog Tiger flipping a Luv Yum off her nose and catching it in her mouth.  Now if that wouldn't sell a dog treat, what would?

About the same time we hired our talented neighbor, Donna Rafferty, to develop signage for the front of our house.  When people come to buy their Luv Yums they easily see they're at the right place.  The result is a perky Dalmatian climbing a small ladder trying to get to a big dog bone on a tree that says Lissie's Luv Yums.  With three more dog bones nailed to the tree, the display is a real attention getter.

Lissie's Luv Yums business is at a very exciting place in development.  Our first contracted baker was the dedicated Char Farrington.  Fortunately, we now contract with Renita Thomas and family to do the baking and provide support.  Arlyn Johnson is our accountant.  With your help and support we hope to continue to expand and attract new customers to build a strong foundation for the business.  Help us achieve the dream of being able to hire others with disabilities.   

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Your pooch will be glad!