Pet owners get assistance through food bank

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For disabled or elderly Wilsonians, a pet can provide needed companionship, but living on a fixed income can make caring for a dog or a cat nearly impossible. That is where The Hungry Pet Food Bank has come in since 2015.

“Animals have no choice in the homes they get, and often people have no choice in their financial circumstances,” said Debbi Long, co-director of the nonprofit organization with Ellen Southerland. “We’re able to help people achieve food security for their animals and hopefully provide the animals with a better life.”

In the past, the group had done a monthly distribution for recipients facing financial crisis or those needing assistance on a regular basis. That changed, though, in October when Long and Southerland created the Hungry Pet Angels list with a brief description of the recipients along with their respective needs.

“We had good donorship, but we wanted to give our donors more concrete information about what the needs were and who they were helping,” Long said. “For example, a lot of who we serve are senior citizens, and two of our clients lost their significant others, cutting their household income in half. That was one of those things where we didn’t know their changing need or how critical the need was if we weren’t dropping off food to help them.”

The women shared a Google document on the group’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/thehungrypetfoodbank/ where folks can read through the descriptions and pledge to support the needs of a particular recipient. There are 10 clients who have not been adopted and two who have received a partial donation.

Among the clients still needing donations are an elderly widow who lives alone with one small dog, but feeds six stray cats and is seeking a bag each of dog and cat food; a former rescuer caring for several older dogs seeking a large bag of dry dog food and 24 cans of wet dog food; and a disabled woman with teenage granddaughters, two big dogs and one small dog. She is seeking a bag of large-breed dog food, a bag of small-breed dog food and cans of wet dog food.

Donations for individual clients — with the client number written on the items — or general needs for the group can be dropped off at Brentwood Veterinary Center, Jana Lake State Farm, Grooming by Patty and Touch of Country as well as Brandywine Veterinary Hospital. In addition to dry and wet dog food and cat food, The Hungry Pet Food Bank also collects blankets, bedding, dog houses and litter to help clients better care for pets.

This Christmas is the third year Brandywine has been doing a food drive for the organization, collecting 935 pounds of food in 2015 and 620 pounds plus a $300 donation in 2016. The staff is hoping to collect 1,000 pounds of food this year.

“We try to do a Christmas project every year, and we knew this was a worthy cause,” said Dr. Catherine Bruton. “I think Christmas is about giving anyways, so it allows us to give to those who could really benefit from the help.”

The Hungry Pet Food Bank also collects financial donations to help clients spay or neuter pets and cut down on overpopulation and strays. Many of the clients on the angel list have notations that their pets have received assistance with sterilization for their animals, such as a disabled senior citizen who relocated to Wilson to be nearer to family following a tragedy, bringing two small dogs, one medium dog and four cats. That client, who is No. 12 on the list and is awaiting adoption, also has three birds and a rabbit looking for forever homes.

In addition to pledging support on the list online, Wilsonians interested in helping or needing assistance can call 252-360-0164 or email thehungrypetfoodbank@gmail.com.

“Everybody has been a part of this and helped us keep afloat for three years,” Long said. “We could not do this without the community and it will continue with community support.”