By Erica Moody
Dog Tag Bakery celebrated its grand opening with a well-attended, high-energy and fun community celebration last Saturday morning. Located in the heart of Georgetown on Grace Street, the bakery is more than a place to grab coffee and scones (although those are top-notch, we have to say); it doubles as a work-study program for veterans with disabilities and their spouses seeking to begin civilian careers in business.
The brainchild of Connie Milstein and Father Rick Curry, the passion project was conceived when the bakery owner (the former Connie’s Bakery & General Store in Mt. Kisco, New York) and cookbook author (The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking) met and bonded over their love of baking. They also discovered a shared passion for philanthropy and eagerness to serve veterans and persons with disabilities. Milstein is the daughter of a WWII vet who struggled to re-enter the workforce after service; Curry was born with only one arm, and believes that he was called to serve disabled veterans. He founded the National Theater Workshop of the Handicapped in New York; she gave 100 percent of net profits from Connie’s Bakery & General Store to charity.
Drawing on their years of experience running successful businesses and nonprofit organizations, Milstein and Curry co-founded Dog Tag Bakery. Together, they launched the unique Dog Tag work-study program in spring 2014, choosing five men and five women to attend rigorous classes and receive hands-on training in all aspects of the bakery business, from baking to operations to marketing.
At the end of the selective six-month program, Dog Tag fellows earned a certificate of business administration from Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies. The inaugural class included spouses and caregivers, along with servicemen and women, from a diverse range of ranks, decorations, and expertise, all working together in the supportive atmosphere of the bakery.
Dog Tag’s storefront includes a bakery, kitchen and classroom space for fellows to hone their skills. The bakery also completes catering and mail orders, giving fellows the chance to manage a nationwide business. The proceeds from the bakery are reinvested in the education program so that more veterans have their chance to realize their dreams. Applications for the second class of fellows will open soon, with an anticipated start date of spring 2015.
The morning’s ceremony began with the color guard, and the national anthem performed beautifully by the Order of the Levites Choir. CNN’s Jake Tapper, who has covered the troops in Afghanistan, moderated and introduced Milstein and Curry, who delivered moving and humorous speeches.
“We call ourselves the match made in heaven,” said Milstein, to laughs. “He is the Jesuit father. I am the Jewish godmother.” She then summed up the mission of Dog Tag Bakery: “Our nation is blessed with veterans who are incredibly talented and diverse. No veteran who wants to work, who wants to have a career, should be unemployed in the United States of America.”
After introductions and speeches, attendees gathered in front of the store to break bread, marking the official opening of a Georgetown business that is truly “baking a difference.”