So often, when we think about food pantries, we think about humans. But thankfully there are also a handful of pet food pantries around town these days. After all, chances are that if someone is struggling to make food purchases for his or her family, the family pet is also a concern.
Over the next couple of weeks, I will be introducing you to at least two local pet food pantries that are helping to put some food in the bowls of dogs and cats through WNY. The first is Pete’s Pet Food Pantry. I spoke to volunteer coordinator Elaine Richau, who helped to shed some light on the operation.
It turns out the late Pete Dempsey-Sims (lead image) opened the pet pantry back in 2011, while she was Deacon at Ascension Episcopal Church at the time. It was there that she met a lot of people who were giving their own food to their pets. So she came up with the idea to start the pet food pantry at Ascension, before moving the operation under the roof as The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd. Ultimately, the pantry became part of Good Shepherd, which was interlinked with the FeedMore WNY network.
“There are people who have the need for a food pantry, a pet pantry, or both,” said Elaine. “Since the genesis of the pet pantry in 2011, a number of others pet pantries have opened up around the region, mostly in Episcopal Churches. Others saw what was happening and identified similar needs. Deacon Pete was a force of nature, who loved her animals. Pete sadly passed away from cancer in November of 2017, but we’re still going. This is her legacy.”
I asked Elaine how the pet pantry faired during the pandemic, and she explained that it was not easy – it actually closed down completely for two months, which left people and their pets in the lurch. At the same time, there was a silver lining.
“The people pantry never closed down during the pandemic,” said Elaine. “We did have to close the pet pantry due to safety reasons and lack of volunteers, who are all elderly. Before the pandemic, we would have upwards of 150 people attend the pet blessings, before the pet food was distributed.
“At the same time, we had to move the people pantry upstairs for safety reasons, and began serving people one person at a time. They would get their food and leave. The model worked so well, that once the pet pantry reopened, we did the same thing. We also changed the entrance of the pantry to the Summit side of the building, and put up signage so that people could find us. But believe me, people know where we are, and they find us.”
As for sourcing all of the pet food needs, Elaine told me that it’s 100% donor-based and that there is an outreach mission, especially when the cupboards get depleted. “We’ve never been completely out of food – when we run low we reach out and ask people for donations,” she said. “We’re very lucky to be in the Parkside neighborhood. We get donations through churchgoers, local businesses, pet food drives, school drives, and people in the neighborhood. The Parkside Community Association has also been very supportive. When people find out about us, they want to help. Since we’re a non-profit, and volunteer-run, we are able to dedicate all of the donations towards the food.”
Elaine made mention that 211wny.org – a health and human services hotline – is a beneficial service that conveniently has a search engine to help people find up to date information on pet food pantries. “Or dial 211 on your phone, ” said Elaine. “It’s a big help for a lot of people.”
When I asked Elaine how she got to be involved with the pet pantry, she told me that she is lucky to have a lot of loved ones in her life. “For some people, pets is all they have. We’re all pet lovers here – it’s very gratifying to do this. It’s a huge thing, to have a people food pantry and a pet food pantry – when someone stops in for food (at either pantry) they learn about the other pantry. It’s incredible to see how many people rely on these types of community services.”
Find Pete’s Pet Food Pantry on Facebook – also convenient for messaging per food donation inquiries
WNY Pet Food Food Pantries February 2021
*Please be prepared to show ID if required
(Stated hours may vary due to Covid)
Pete’s Pet Food Pantry
Open the first Sunday of each month from 3-4 PM
The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd
96 Jewett Parkway
Buffalo, NY 14214
St Matthias Pet Food Pantry
Open the 1st and 3rd Tuesdays of each month from 1-3 PM
374 Main Street (enter off Maple Road)
E. Aurora, NY 14052
St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church
Open the 2nd Saturday of each month from 11-12 noon
13021 West Main St.
Alden, NY 14004
Trinity Episcopal Church
Open the 1st Sunday of each month from 12 Noon-1 PM
62 West Buffalo Street
Warsaw, NY 14569
God’s Gift to Grace Pet Pantry
Open the 3rd Saturday of each month from 8:30-10 AM
@Emmanuel United Methodist Church
75 East Ave.
Lockport, NY 14094
Tender Paws Pet Food Pantry
Open by appointment (due to Covid)