By Sharon Merkel Prudhomme ~
So often we stumble upon amazing people with BIG hearts and their commitments! My part-time hobby of refinishing small tables and chairs led me to meet two such people because I can rarely pass up a good deal on FaceBook Marketplace! After securing an appointment and directions I was off to meet Joanne Carr to purchase a vintage Harp chair in Lanoka Harbor. (Stay tuned for a piece on the “connection” between a chair and a Pet Food Pantry)
Joanne and her husband Everett, originally from Old Bridge and Sayreville, have called Ocean County their home for 22 years. Joanne, a devoted animal lover had a German Shepherd named Max as a child. She’s always had cats and for the past 12 years, both cats and dogs. She believes humans need to stand up for animals, to protect and care for them. In her eyes, a house is not a home without an animal in it to which I agree 100%! Both are animal/dog lovers and are passionate about their mission, Helping 4 Paws at a Time Pet Food Pantry, which they began 6 years ago by purchasing bulk, damaged or clearance pet food for others.
Joanne recalls helping out a neighbor in need with a ride to a food bank in Ocean County some years ago. Upon arrival, the woman asked if there was any cat food available as she was having trouble affording to feed her pet. Sadly she was told she shouldn’t have a cat if she couldn’t afford to feed it! Joanne relates that although having an animal as part of the family indeed comes with responsibilities, anyone can fall on hard times. She feels strongly (as most of us do) that “we” as a community should be helping others rather than shunning or recommending surrendering their beloved pets. She mentions the harsh reality of thousands of animals, family pets, are put to death simply because their caretakers are unable to provide. A misery nobody should have to deal with.
The Carrs’ mission is to make sure no animal goes hungry. Their main goal is supplying pet food to Food Banks. They offer sliding scales for private individuals who can’t afford to feed their furry family members and are not registered with local food banks. Additionally, Joanne and Everett place high priority on getting bulk food into the hands of all the amazing Pet Rescues in the area. Rescues are on the front lines and having access to extremely reduced pet food helps in saving more lives. Last year they started allowing private individuals to purchase pet food at a discounted rate to offset the free food giveaway. Besides foods, other supplies such as linens, bedding, toys, harnesses, leashes and pet clothes are offered to anyone in need. Important to know, both spaying and neutering are mandatory for any assistance offered. Assistance for breeders, professional or backyard, or for anyone who purchased an animal will be denied. The motto: ADOPT DON’T SHOP!
Currently, Joanne says they self-fund the Pantry along with an amazing anonymous donor who helps tremendously. Acquiring pet food is a daunting task of shopping bulk, finding closeouts and negotiating with stores. Occasionally while shopping at local pet stores, someone will see her order and after hearing about their program, step up and contribute to the bill! Joanne deeply appreciates this and says it’s beautiful to see that people care. There are some wonderful, caring volunteers who help load, unload trucks, sort & stack food as well as keep it organized who Joanne says it wouldn’t happen without them. Volunteers are welcomed into the program and are offered free pet food for their time.
Helping 4 Paws supplies mainly dog food and occasionally food for rabbits, iguana, ferrets, birds and fish as well. A push for high-quality 4-5 star food is the goal as an animals health is directly affected by the food they eat. For those individuals in need, the program means they won’t have to surrender their beloved pet due to finances while allowing them to feed high-quality food to their animal, thus reducing potential veterinary bills. This reduces the enormous stress level of not knowing how they will feed their pet. By reducing their pet food bills, they are able to use the funds to pay down other expenses. Joanne says the most rewarding feeling is knowing that they helped a pet sleep well with a full belly!
There has always been a need, but 2020 brought a much greater need during the Covid Pandemic. Just prior to the pandemic Joanne saw a slight surge that she contributed to their community outreach but soon came an almost uncontrollable boost after it hit. They had a difficult time keeping up with the demand. Making matters worse, the main food source was lost when Pet Value closed its doors.
The need remains high which is confusing for Joanne as she hears of how the economy is improving. In speaking with non-profits this is not the case. Some of the food banks she delivers to have quadrupled in the number of families they assist each month. The Carrs’ Helping 4 Paws at a Time Pet Food Pantry has tripled in the number of people contacting them directly in desperate need of pet food.
***The Carrs’ have been using a POD to store supplies, however, their township has told them it must go. They are currently trying to raise funds for a trailer to replace the POD. If you would like to help Joanne & Everett in their mission, they’ve begun a Go Fund Me page and would appreciate a contribution no matter how small. Every little bit helps! https://gofund.me/6550de41
Contact 4 Paws at a Time for info, applications and updates.
Go to their Facebook group “Helping 4 Paws at a Time”, give them a like, a pat on the back for their efforts and a helping hand!