Kennedy Center’s Project CONNECT is a success

The Kennedy Center sponsors a program called Project CONNECT that aims to help their clients with special needs become more reliable by having them volunteer and offer services around the community.

Every two weeks Patti Santilli, who is a supervisor from the Kennedy Center, and several of her clients head over to Shelton’s animal shelter to feed some of the dogs some homemade treats.

“Oatmeal, honey, peanut butter, flour, and baking soda,” said Chris Sargent, who is a client at the Kennedy Center, while listing the ingredients they use to make the treats each week.

Santilli said they visit the shelter bi-weekly and have only seen positivity from the experience.

“It’s crazy how when we first began doing this close to a year ago, Rich and Erin were both scared of the dogs. Now they both get upset if for some reason we can’t make it one Thursday,” said Santilli. “It also helps them build confidence which is great.”

Both Richard Marsh and Erin Brough are clients at the Kennedy center. Marsh’s speech is limited but was happy to be able to interact and feed several of the dogs.

“The dogs all love this recipe that we found online and it’s very simple so we’ve never tweaked it,” said Santilli. “And they also like baking the treats so it’s a win-win.”

Sargent is one of the “chefs” responsible for making the treats and said he’s always loved being able to get close with the dogs. From the looks of it the dogs enjoyed it as much as he did.

He bonded most with a dog named Ava, partly because it’s his niece’s name.

“She’s friendly and she really loves my treats and kisses,” said Sargent.

The treats that the clients don’t feed the dogs during their stay, Animal Control Supervisor Leon Sylvester said he saves for the other dogs in kennels in the back of the shelter.