Pet Pantry at The Caring Place provides pet food for those in need
By Whitney Skeeters; Staff Writer
In the face of the suffering economy, it might surprise you what some citizens are giving up.
It seems that every day, a new way the economy is impacting families in Morgan County is uncovered, and one more to add to the list is the plight of pets. Many families have been reluctantly considering giving up their pets for adoption as they are forced to prioritize spending.
As the lines at food banks such as The Caring Place grow by the week, so have the numbers of pets being turned over to Morgan County Animal Control by owners who simply can no longer properly care for them.
Disturbed by what they have seen, the volunteers at Georgia Rescue and Rehab have organized a Pet Pantry to be given out in conjunction with The Caring Place.
“We’re ultimately trying to keep dogs and cats within their own families,” said Carol Harris, who is in charge of public relations, fund-raising, event planning, and now the Pet Pantry at Georgia Rescue and Rehab. “With an economy with 9 percent unemployment, that puts more and more at a crisis where maybe now they are thinking they can’t afford to keep their pets anymore.”
There have been two pet pantry distributions so far in the month of March, and both times applicants have quickly cleaned out all Harris had to offer.
Harris came up with the idea for a local pet pantry after reading a newspaper article about a pet pantry in the place she used to live, Buffalo, NY. She realized it would be more difficult to develop a strong stock of pet supplies in a smaller area such as Morgan County, but felt it was something the county direly needed. She started asking around in December to see what kind of response she would get and to see if the local pet supply stores would be interested in contributing. She approached The Caring Place director, who was more than happy to help out. It took a couple of months to get the project off the ground and gather enough supplies and support, but Harris successfully organized the first pet pantry March 13 at the Caring Place distribution site.
“We had 56 gallon bags of dog food, but didn’t have anything for cats at that time. It was gone in 45 minutes,” Harris said, adding that she manned the Pet Pantry by herself that day. “I couldn’t believe it. I was overwhelmed at the need.”
Since the first Friday, Harris has found a team of volunteers who heard about the pantry and wanted to get involved. At the most recent distribution, Jessica Royal and Tim Lewis re-bagged the donated food while Alex DiRocco worked the desk handing out forms to those interested in receiving the donations. Harris said they want to keep the information on file so they can tailor the next distribution to those who come each week. This way they know if they need to look for more cat food, senior dog food, or puppy food.
So far, the donations have come from GreenSouth, who donated food that expired or needed to be off of the shelf as well as breakaway flea collars, and Tractor Supply, who also gave food, discontinued items, and some shampoos. Harris said the two pet supply stores in Madison would not be able to donate every week, so she hopes many individuals will contribute pet items when they learn of the purpose of the pantry. She urges pet owners to consider buying an extra bag of food when they go shopping for their own pet. Donations can be dropped off at the distributions on Fridays, at one of the adoption sites Georgia Rescue and Rehab lists in the Weekly Verb section of the Citizen, or donors can simply call her and she will come pick it up herself (706.752.1500). She also welcomes any locals who are interested in volunteering with the pantry – they could always use the extra hands.
“A lot of people want to do something to help, but they can’t adopt or foster,” Harris said. “This is a good way to help a lot of families that need it. It is a huge need, and they are genuinely thankful they are getting the food.”
PHOTO BY A. BELLEBUONO
FOOD FOR ALL Carol Harris (left), Georgia Rescue and Rehabilitation director, and volunteer Jessica Royal put together bags of pet food for Pet Pantry recipients at The Caring Place Friday morning. Anyone interested in donating or volunteering can contact Harris through GRR at 706.752.1500.
Printed in the January 26, 2009 edition.