What happens to Fido and Fluffy when the family is in crisis and has trouble putting dinner on the table for the humans? Do they have to make do with only the crumbs left on the human’s plates? Or do they have to visit “friends” at the Animal Shelter and hope for placement with new families?
A group of Girl Scouts visited the Community Lifeline Center not long ago and asked these questions. The young women were made aware of the CLC’s Market where residents of north Collin County can get help with groceries, but they noted quickly that pet foods are not included. Yet they recognized what a traumatic situation having to sacrifice the family pet would be to families already in crisis.
Christine Hockin-Boyd, executive director of the Community Lifeline Center, had already recognized the need for pet food assistance. She said, “I had identified a grant to begin the pet food assistance program but hadn’t been able to identify partners to help support and launch the program. And then who comes around the corner….the girl scouts.”
Instead of leaving the CLC with questions, these girls decided to do something to answer them. Katy Metcalf, Emma Woolley, Auburn Riley, and Alexandra Schockmel appealed to their Leader of Troop 1161, Sonya Riley. Together, they developed a plan to fulfill their mission: “To keep pets with their families.”
The Scouts are marketing their plan, and began by handing out cards at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church during the Empty Bowls fundraiser last month. Next, they publicized their efforts at McKinney’s “Crewe of Barkus” event. “They have been to the North Texas Pet Food Pantry (NTPFP) location to set up a spot for their efforts, looked into purchasing shelving for storage of canned food and smaller bags,” says Troop Leader Sonya Riley.
According to Cheryl Spencer, Director of the North Texas Pet Food Pantry, “This Girl Scout Troop has actually been a more important element than they have realized. Up until now, the pet food pantry has attempted to distribute pet foods to individuals just by word of mouth. We were unable to determine eligibility and were having a difficult time with this process.” The Pet Food Pantry has been in existence for three years and now, thanks to Troop 1161, the NTPFP is working with CLC to reach those who really need help. “This was a huge roadblock for us…..until the Girl Scouts put it all together for us!” says Spencer. “We will be serving those families in need that are referred to us by Community Lifeline Center and other community service organizations. We will be able to monitor the needs more closely by these referrals, and have a more organized distribution policy.”
The Girl Scout Troop and NTPFP will work together in the spring and summer on some fundraising projects. “They are also working with Larry Robinson, with 3e McKinney, to look into churches providing continual support, even after the girls have finished with their project,” comments Riley.
The future for Fluffy and Fido looks much fuller even when their families experience rough times. As Hockin-Boyd says, “No family should have to surrender their pet during a crisis of their own.”
Families in need should communicate with Community Lifeline Center who can help meet those needs and can refer the families to other agencies who will provide other types of help to get them back on their feet. And neighbors of these families can help as well by contacting CLC to donate or to volunteer. For more information please visit www.communitylifeline.org.