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A local organization helps families struggling to support their pets



Pet Food Pantry is for the couple who walked in to the Oklahoma City Animal Shelter prepared to give up their pets after tearfully explaining they could no longer afford to feed their cats and dogs.

It's for the low-income senior citizen who didn't have the means to buy food for her pets. And it's for the family desperately trying to keep their service dog, but struggling with the costs of pet ownership.

For all of these individuals, a Pet Food Pantry volunteer stepped in with the nickels and dimes to pick up the kibbles and bits.

The Pantry has been providing food to low-income senior citizens since June. And now, after merging with the Oklahoma City Pet Food Bank in September, the new-and-improved Pantry seeks to expand its services to low-income residents of any age throughout the metro area.

"We want to keep pets at home where they belong," said Kim Pempin, Pet Food Pantry founder and president.

The best way to accomplish this goal was by joining the OKC Pet Food Bank, which has been distributing food out of the city's animal shelter and the BritVil Community Food Pantry to pet owners in need since March 2009. Stronger together than apart, the two officially became one in early September.

"There are several prongs to our goal. One is to make sure that these people, especially these seniors, are not taking food out of their own mouths to give to animals," Pempin said. "The other thing is to make sure that they don't have to surrender pets just because they can't afford to keep them, which is going to help shelters and rescue groups."

Since joining forces, the expanded Pantry has distributed more than 3,000 pounds of food, Pempin said. But its mission goes beyond just providing food and extends to animal and owner well-being.

Because many of its clients are elderly or unable to get out of their home, the Pantry has gone mobile with volunteers who do door-to-door service, Pempin said.

"These volunteers will have routes, go to people's homes, deliver their food (and) check on them and their animals," she said.

Additionally, when people donate money by PayPal or snail mail, they have the option to direct their donation to either the purchase of pet food or vaccinations and spay and neuter procedures. Donations of food can also be dropped off at one of several metro locations. 

The Pet Food Pantry has applied for 501(c)(3) status and is recognized by the IRS as a nonprofit. Accordingly, all monetary and food donations are tax deductible.

"Every door has opened for us," Pempin said. "It's clear that this is what we're supposed to do."

above Teresa Wheeler, Nanci Moll, Kim Pempin, Becky McBryde, Darryl Brooks and Taryn Fast load the back of an SUV with donation baskets for the Salvation Army.

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