(Pet) Food for Thought
In the Homeward Pet donation room, the bounty of food and supplies reaches the ceiling. On one side: cans in neat rows, rawhide bones the length of dachshunds, puppy training pads stacked high. The other: bags of cat food grouped by size, litter that sounds like shifting sand when rearranged. Like opening the hood of a car, at first glance its internal logic is hidden by the sheer number of parts, but there’s method to the food bank’s shelves.
Outside, in the pre-sorting area, it’s a different story. All material donations Homeward Pet receives—whether by truck, collection bin, or via mysterious nighttime do-gooder—come through our doors to be sorted by a small team: our facilities manager, Paul, and our dedicated food bank volunteers. Some donations remain; others are earmarked for other shelters and food banks when our supply outweighs demand. Each year, over 100,000 pounds of food leave our doors to serve families and pets in need throughout the community—which wouldn’t be possible without the team of food bank volunteers.
Lara Prado, four year volunteer, is one such face you can find strong-arming bags of food between shelves. Happy owner of one Homeward Pet alum, Millicent, Lara tackles the food bank one day a week and dog-walking shifts another. Her double-duty was not accidental: she knows, as she puts it, that “our shelter runs on all volunteers,” no matter where their daily tasks are located. Though the donation room is a less popular volunteer area, it’s essential to continue operations, both at Homeward Pet and beyond.
Take Edmonds Food Bank, Lara says. With our assistance, they’re now able to have a specific pet food area. Reaching families in need with food donations is one way to make sure pets stay in their homes—and out of shelters.
Despite our efforts, we’re still a busy adoption center. When there’s the possibility to spend time directly with animals, the food bank’s shelves are a harder role to sell to those interested in volunteering. Though there are fewer wagging tails in the donation room, it’s not without its own, less slobbery draws. There is, of course, the satisfaction of a job well done—of seeing stacks of food turn into orderly lines and know that it’s because of you and your team’s effort. There’s also recognition of the big picture: because of the food bank’s efforts, more than 1800 cats and dogs will receive quality meals. Beyond that is something even more profound.
“I love seeing people’s generosity,” she says. “We get donations from everywhere: regular deliveries from pet supply stores are most common, but there are also people who have lost their pet and want to make sure their supplies go to help another animal. It’s a time of grieving, but they still want to help.”
One of the most moving memories she has is when a child’s donation made it through our doors. “Along with the usual bags of food we once got a piggy bank full of coins and dollars. You see really good things like that all the time.”
Is there anyone who couldn’t use a little reminder of the world’s goodness?
It’s a reminder that we all need, occasionally. When Lara tells people how she spends her Monday mornings at an animal shelter, there’s a common reaction: listeners think that volunteer shifts at an animal shelter are filled with heartache.
“Often, whoever I’m talking to will say, ‘That must be so sad, working at an animal shelter,’ and I just tell them that the animals come in, and they’re getting the best care possible – maybe the best care they’ve ever gotten, period. That doesn’t leave me feeling sad. They have much better lives ahead of them, and I’m so happy to be a part of that.”
Learn more about volunteering with our food bank and accepted donations here.