A grey brick building with a sign in the shape of a dog tag reading: "Dog Tag Bakery."
Brianne Talocka

One District sweet shop is dedicated to “baking a difference” for disabled veterans. The Dog Tag Bakery does more than just make tasty treats, sandwiches, breads and salad. This notable Georgetown establishment pays workers for on the job training as part of Dog Tag Incorporated, a company that provides education in hopes of increasing veterans’ employability after military service.

The operation was co-founded by Friar Rick Curry and Connie Milstein. Curry was born without his right forearm and became a Jesuit Priest in Georgetown dedicated to empowering others. After 9/11, he specifically wanted to focus on empowering disabled veterans. After meeting Milstein, who owned a bakery in New York that worked with women who lived in poverty, the two of them decided to create a social enterprise combining their passions for helping people who need it most. The Dog Tag brand was born.

The inside of the bakery. There are white circular tables with red cushioned seats. A woman waits in front of a counter with a baked goods display. An employee works behind the counter.

Inside the Dog Tag Bakery. | Photo by Brianne Talocka

Classes for disabled veterans are held on the second floor of Dog Tag Bakery and are taught by Georgetown University professors. After completing a five-month training program, disabled veterans receive a degree in Business Administration from Georgetown University’s school of Continuing Studies. The program includes classes in management, accounting, entrepreneurship and marketing. Participants also have the chance to put their business skills to work by rotating through various roles at Dog Tag Bakery. The program also helps people who are transitioning out of the military get back into the civilian workforce, according to Director of Business Operations Chris Yedabalian.

Combining both classroom and real world business experience aims to give these veterans the skills to do whatever they want to do next in life. Some of the veterans who have graduated from Dog Tag have started their own business, gone to work for the government and continued to further their education. Director of development, Lolly Rivas, believes it’s interesting to see the “different diverse paths” people from the program take.

A photo display featuring images of baked goods and people holding chalkboards with messages related to the organization's mission.

A photo display at Dog Tag Bakery. | Photo by Brianne Talocka

Peter Scott, a graduate of Dog Tag’s program started his own company in Maryland called Fields 4 Valor, which grows crops for families in need. Families can sign up to receive fresh food by applying online. Scott’s company and his mission to provide families with basic needs helped him create a new career for himself after the military.

The program is free for veterans, who are also paid a stipend for working in the bakery. Because it has been successful locally, Dog Tag is now trying to picture what this model would look like nationally. For Yedabalian, the most rewarding part of working at Dog Tag is seeing the community that forms with the students. They form a tight-knit bond with each other while readying themselves for the next phase of their lives.

Dog Tag Incorporated is currently accepting applications for their term beginning July 2017. Visit their website for more information and application instructions.