A Voice for the Good: Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry
3Rivers is proud to support so many of the non-profit organizations that are committed to making our community a better place to live, work, and play, and we want to help spread the word about the difference they're making in our region. We’ve teamed up with 97.3WMEE to bring you A Voice for the Good podcast to do just that! We’re temporarily bringing the podcast to you via these Q&A online articles, as we’re doing our part to social distance and keep our community safe.
This article features Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry—a local non-profit on a mission of "keeping pets at home with their families" by providing pet food at no cost to pet owners who are struggling financially. The Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry relies heavily on donations and volunteers in order to support to pet owners in our community. In 2020 alone, they distributed 76,517 pounds of food to help pets and their owners in our community!
We talked with Executive Director, Rochele Watson, to learn more about the organization and how those in our community can support and/or benefit from their efforts.
How did Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry come to be? What’s the history/story behind how the organization initially got started?
In 2010, our founder, Pam Tracy, was looking for a solution to slow animals being surrendered to the local animal care and control. After learning how many were surrendered because owners were struggling to feed their pets, she and a small team of volunteers began to hand out pet food from the back of her Jeep.
What is the official mission of Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry, and how is it currently being put into play?
Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry provides free pet food to pet owners facing financial boundaries to help them keep their pets at home and maintain the emotional bond that pets provide to us, and us to them. During the pandemic, this mission is more important than ever, as our client list doubled, even from the largest numbers in 2019.
How do you see the mission and vision of Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry evolving into the future? Where do you see this organization a year from now, or even five years from now?
We're currently growing at a rapid rate, and this reflects the community need for our services, but also our reach, expanding beyond Allen County in some instances.
Are there any exciting new developments, updates, or changes that have recently taken place at Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry?
In 2021, we added 125 more opportunities to receive pet food to our clients, through Tuesdays at Church Street and our three dedicated Pet Food Pop-up locations in New Haven, Downtown Fort Wayne, and Roanoke.
What kind of impact has the global pandemic had on Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry, and how has the organization pivoted or gotten innovative in response?
We immediately switched to car-side service in the middle of March 2020, and have streamlined our distribution model to provide fast and safe service, especially to our elderly clients. We also have thrown ourselves into online fundraising and online retail, like Amazon and Chewy wish-lists for donations.
Could you share a standout story or two that really illustrates the impact Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry and/or its programs has on individuals and their pets in our community?
When we began in 2010, the shelter surrender rate because of food insecurity for pets was 25%. At the end of last year, during a pandemic, that return rate had dropped to less than 2%. We are providing exceptional service to both long-time clients and new clients that suddenly found themselves in dire financial situations and we are doing it with empathy and care.
Our ability to source specific food for health issues in pets is another great resource for families with a limited income. While we can’t guarantee that we have prescription food in stock, we can provide food suited for senior pet needs which prolongs the emotional support bond that pets provide their owners.
How do pet owners go about qualifying and/or inquiring about support from Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry? What does that process look like?
Pet owners in need can simply visit our website, check our schedule, and show up. We are tearing down boundaries to keep pets at home with their families.
Are there other local non-profit organizations that Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry works/partners with to enhance their programs?
We partner with all animal rescue and welfare organizations in Fort Wayne, in mutual aide, along with several human food pantries. Publicly, we have a long standing relationship with Wellspring Interfaith Social Services.
Are there opportunities for community members to volunteer at Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry—and if so, how can they go about learning more?
Absolutely! We have links on our website under “Volunteer," with times and dates to sign up using SignUp Genius.
In what other ways can community members support Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry—be it through monetary donations, material donations, education, etc.
There are several ways our community can support our efforts! All of the ways to support our organization can be conveniently found at this link.
Where can our readers learn more about Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry and how can they reach out to you to learn more or get involved?
Is there anything else you'd like our readers to know about Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry?
We are an all-volunteer organization, supported by the community for the community. With a shared love for pets and a teamwork mentality, the work we do is sustainable and a critical component to animal services in Fort Wayne and beyond. Thank you to all of the individuals and businesses that support our mission!
All photos courtesy of Fort Wayne Pet Food Pantry's Facebook page.