A sluggish economy isnt just difficult for city residents, its hard on peoples pets as well.
Thats where the Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry hopes to swoop in to save the day, pantry founder Pam Tracy said.
When it all started, I was looking at the high euthanasia rates at the local shelters and I was asking why they were so high, she said. Part of the problem was simple economics – a bad economy is bad for people and pets, she said. Another part was the challenge of keeping animals from arriving at shelters in the first place.
Tracys attempt at a solution began with bags of cat and dog food piled high in the back of a pickup truck, she said.
Back in June of 2010, I had bags stacked in my living room and in the truck and people would just stop by the Plymouth Congregational Church parking lot and pick it up, said Tracy, a native of Fort Wayne.
But it wasnt long before the organizations following began to grow, and with it, a demand for more donations.
Fortunately, with an offer from Madeleine Laird of H.O.P.E. for Animals Clinic allowing the pantry to use extra space in its building, Tracy soon found a semi-permanent home for the organization – a space far more cozy than the back of a truck.
The pantry requests meals mostly for cats and dogs, but the greatest need is dry cat food, which seems to fly off the shelves faster than it can be delivered, Tracy said.
Bags of cat litter, cat and dog treats and zipper-lock bags to divvy up larger food bags are also welcomed.
The organization is just one of many area nonprofits included in The Journal Gazettes annual holiday charity giving list. The listing began in Fridays edition, continued Saturday and concludes today with the needs of area animal organizations.
Although the pantry does its best to provide for families, it is merely a supplemental program, and patrons still must seek additional resources when theyve collected the maximum amount provided by the pantry, Tracy said. Volunteers track patrons with file cards and keep records of how many pets they own and the size of each animal in order to provide an appropriate amount of food, she explained.
Since the organization began in 2010, the pantry has given out more than 32,000 pounds of dry food, Tracy said. That doesnt include the hundreds of pounds of wet food, treats and other pet necessities. On average, she said, they serve between 50 and 60 pet owners during each distribution day – donations that fill the hungry stomachs of 600 and 800 cats and dogs each month.
I hear the same stories repeated over and over again. My pets are my babies, my pets are my family, my pets are my children, she said. Id give up my house before them.
Most of her patrons are senior citizens, people on disability or those who are unemployed, Tracy said. Sometimes shell see the same people month after month and other times theyll find resources elsewhere or gain income to pay for pet food. Those are the moments to celebrate, she added.
I see patterns of people coming back after they stop coming for a while. Theyll get a job, lose the job and then come back for more, she said. Im glad were there for them.
This holiday season, the pantry has also set up an Angel Tree at Pet Supplies Plus on Coldwater Road. The tree will be filled with wish list items, and customers can buy the items in the store and leave them under the tree through mid-December, Tracy said. Checks, gift cards and pet food coupons can also be mailed to Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry, P.O. Box 10126, Fort Wayne, IN 46850.