For many, the holidays bring about a spirit of giving and community. In fact, almost one third of giving occurs in just the month of December alone. It’s a time of year when we begin to look around for others to help during their time of need. However, when most people think of those who need help, they rarely think, “what about the pets in those families who have fallen on hard times?” and “will they have to part with them to afford to live?”.
Fortunately, The Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry, a local all-volunteer non-profit, seeks to bring this issue to light and strives to keep those families together, pets included.
“The holidays are stressful for everyone and when finances are tight and the sun is limited, people tend to isolate themselves and problems seem greater than what they might actually be.” Rochele Watson, Executive Director of Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry, Inc. continues, “By providing free pet food to those in need, we can reduce the number of animals that are taken to the shelter. Preserving the loving relationship that pet owners share with their pets is our focus and relieving people of the emotional stress of not being able to provide for their pets is our goal.”
However, the Pet Food Pantry doesn’t just operate during the holidays. Year-round they assist those who are struggling financially, people with disabilities, the elderly, disabled veterans, and the homeless.
Finding its roots in 2010, in a church parking lot by founder, Pam Tracy, in hopes of reducing the number of animals being euthanized at local shelters, The Pet Food Pantry is now headquartered in Waynedale at 2502 Church Street. It serves about 5,500 pounds of dry food each month, totaling to about 600 families through their various distribution sites throughout Fort Wayne and the surrounding area.
In fact, the organization was recently honored with a nation-wide award by Pets of the Homeless for the large amount of pet food and service they’ve provided to the community. This year they have hit 293,000 pounds of pet food served throughout their 9 years of service.
Watson says there has been significant progress but there’s still a great need in the community to help pets and their families. Watson shared, “When [The Pantry] started in 2010, roughly 25% of animals surrendered at area shelters were surrendered because of food scarcity and income limitations. In 2019 that percentage is closer to 7%, because of social welfare programs for pets like Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry.” She continued, “We are grateful to have a dedicated and hardworking volunteer force of about 30 people and a causal and empathic volunteer pool of over 100 folks that assist when they can.”
Residents can help by donating, volunteering or following the organization on social media. And they say you can find information about how to donate, volunteer or inquire about using their services by visiting their website at www.fwpetfoodpantry.com, while you drink your morning coffee and pet your own animals.
The Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry “feels that pets are so important to the health and wellbeing of our clients, providing much needed companionship. We also understand that the cost of food can be a barrier in pet retention. We don’t take any of the donations we receive for granted and every bag of food we are given is literally a lifeline to another family.”