Inernational Community Cat
Food Pantries Month
Why Food Pantries Are Needed
She gave up job, survives on one small meal a day and gets by on donations to care for a total of 150 cats
For months, Ms Lily Low went without food for two days at a time just to make sure that more than 80 rescue cats ate enough.
Eight years later, she is still struggling to feed herself and 150 or so cats, although things are a little better now.
The 46-year-old survives on just one meal a day and gets by with the support of family, friends and donations from other animal lovers from around the world who learn of her private cat shelter through social media.
“Before I went into being a full-time rescuer, I had money to do what I wanted and buy clothes that I didn’t need,” said Ms Low, who once worked as a personal assistant in an advertising company.
“But ever since I gave up these things and went into rescue work, I’ve found life to be more fulfilling.”
Despite not being a “cat person”, she took in her first rescued cat about 17 years ago. One became two, and soon she had around 80 cats or so in a three-room flat in Tampines, where she lived with her brother.
She started pawning her personal items for the cash she needed to feed her cats.
After receiving complaints for keeping so many cats there, she moved and eventually wound up in the basement of a shop-house.
Currently, she keeps the cats in a shelter in Pasir Ris Farmway, where there are other private shelters.
Her work took a toll not only on her finances, but also on her relationships with people.
“When my late mother came to see where I was (spending my days), she was heartbroken,” said Ms Low. “It took many years for my family to accept what I’m doing.”
They finally started supporting her a few years ago with a small allowance and her elder sister, who lives in Malaysia, started doing similar rescue work there as well.
Ms Low’s work has not gone for the most part unrecognized. She is a familiar face to the animal rescue community and she seldom turns away any appeal for rescue.
“When rescuers ask me for help, most of the time, I don’t turn them down although it’s more work for me,” she said. “My priority is the safety of the cats.”
Besides helping to re-home rescued kittens, she also takes in older cats as well, many of which have trouble finding new homes as most people prefer kittens.
She starts each day in the shelter before the sun comes up, disinfecting the cats’ living quarters for hours, cleaning their drinking bowls and making sure they are fed. happy and healthy. In the afternoons, she cycles out to a nearby supermarket to buy food and supplies.
On social media, she shares her work and appeals for donations in the form of cat food, litter and money to pay for rent and the vet’s bills. This can sometimes amount to around $8,000 in total.
“Sometimes, (donations for) the food do not come in. Many times, I owe my supplier up to $2,000 just for dry food,” she said.
One of her suppliers is Mr Chan Chow Wah, 42, owner of pet supplies shop Animal Human Alliance, who allows people to donate cat food and supplies to Ms Low by buying them through the store he has online.
When Ms Low receives food donations, she acknowledges the donors on her page.
“That’s how people come to know her, trust her and help her in different ways,” said Mr Chan, who has worked with her for over a year and is also involved with animal rescue.
People often share stories of abandoned or abused cats online and rejoice when they are taken in by shelters that exist like hers, he said.
“But people like Lily have to walk the whole journey with the cat when taking it in. It can be very lonely and emotionally demanding.”
Ms Low has absolutely no regrets about the life she has chosen for herself and she intends to run the shelter for as long as she can.
“It is fulfilling to be able to save lives,” Ms Low said.
In December we celebrate community cat food pantries.
Taking on colony cat management is not only time consuming, but very expensive without community donations. Food is ALWAYS in great need along with medical care, supplies and so on.
How to Start A Pet Food Pantry
If you’d like to start a pet food bank in your town, here’s a 10-step guide to start you on this incredibly rewarding journey.
Step 1: Create a Plan. The plan should clearly define
your mission, benefits and purpose, and the cost of getting your food
bank started and sustained. It should also include a board of directors,
preferably people who share the same love for animals and have areas of expertise that will benefit your organization (e.g. business owners and
experts in inventory, bookkeeping and publicity). Your board of
directors will help you determine a name for your food bank and the
needs of the organization and keep you focused on your primary mission.
An odd number of board members is ideal, should a vote be required to
make a business decision.
Step 2: Get Incorporated. Go to your local county
clerk’s office and file for Articles of Incorporation for Nonprofits,
which will protect your board and staff from legal liabilities. Each
state has its own incorporation fee (in Florida, it’s $75). This process
takes a few days. Once incorporated, file for a tax ID number with the
IRS by calling 1-800-829-4933. This is free and happens instantly.
Estimated cost: $30-125
Step 3: File for 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Status. Find
someone well-versed in non-profit accounting to help you file. This is a
critical step and a daunting task, but with the right accountant,
preferably one willing to donate his or her time, it will lead to
tax-exemption and grant money, which will help sustain your
organization. The 501(c)(3) filing requires paperwork that can be
downloaded from the IRS Web site. You can file on your own, but it’s not
Step 4: Set up Your Business. Plan to store the food at
your home or find a business willing to donate part of its storage
Set up a low-cost phone system, such as MagicJack,
which includes local and long-distance calling, a phone number,
voicemail, caller ID, etc.
Set up a checking account for your business, establish a regular food
distribution location (get a local business to donate a parking lot) and
hours of operation. Start out as you mean to continue: For example, we
distribute on the second Saturday of each month.
Cost for the MagicJack phone system: $39.95; $19.95 annual renewal fee
Step 5: Build you Brand and Start Marketing. Create a
logo and tagline that represents your mission and distinguishes you from
others. Find a designer to create it for free (check out Idealist.org for
volunteers) or purchase a stock photo online (for example, at iStockphoto.com), which gives you the copyright to the artwork.
Estimated cost: $75 for stock art
Step 6: Build an Online Community. Capitalize on free
social networking by creating a free blog (for example, at Blogger.com),
Facebook page and Twitter account for your business. Create a PayPal account, linked to your organization’s checking account, and post PayPal donation widgets to these sites to receive online donations.
Invite friends to read your blog and follow your organization on
Facebook and Twitter (and ask them to invite their friends). Take
advantage of Twitter’s hashtags, such as #Animals, #Dogs, #Cats, #Pets, #MeowMonday,#TweetAPetTues,
#Fursday and #FF. List
your organization on Twitter directories such as http://wefollow.com, http://twitr.org and www.tweetfind.com
to gain more followers.
Step 7: Hold a Kickoff Fundraiser to Recoup Your Set -up
Costs. Find a local restaurant willing to host your fundraiser
and food drive. Get the owners to donate part of the proceeds from the
event to your charity. Invite your pet -loving friends to come to the
event via e-mail, your blog, Facebook, Twitter and word-of-mouth. Get
local businesses to donate products and services to raffle off (and
don’t stop there; continue the fundraisers and enlist local schools and
businesses to conduct food drives).
Step 8: Spread the Word with PR. Announce the opening
of your food bank and your fundraisers/food drives by distributing a
press release to local papers and radio and TV stations.
Step 9: Partner with Others. If there’s another pet
food bank in town, approach them to partner with you. You both have the same mission and partnering will reduce abuse of the system and help you share expenses. We partnered with Bright Paws Pet Food Bank, a project associated with Hospice of Health First’s Bright Star Center for Grieving Children & Families. In operation for over a year, Bright Paws has distributed more than 30,000 pounds of pet food and helped more than 500 families.
Work with your local pet shelters and pet-supply stores to see if
they’ll donate stock that is set to expire to your food bank.
Step 10: Distribute Pet Food to Qualified People. Have
applicants register and sign a form stating that without this
assistance, they would be faced with surrendering their pets. Qualified
people are either unemployed or disabled. However, some people can’t
show proof if they’re no longer collecting unemployment checks, so keep
in mind that qualifying is a judgment call. That said, if you can afford
to feed your pets, you probably won’t stand in a long line on Saturday
morning to receive free pet food.
Together with Bright Paws, Space Coast Kibble Kitchen recently held its
first distribution day and helped 109 families keep their pets.
Total cost: Priceless!!
Let’s fill the bowls together!
Terry May and Susan Fritz founded Space Coast Kibble Kitchen in Brevard County, FL, to help families struggling with financial difficulties keep their pets. With help from Cynthia Koppler of the Bright Paws Pet Food Bank by Bright Star, they are working to make sure no local pets are surrendered due to economic hardship. Today they share some tips for starting a pet food bank in your community.
As cousins and longtime animal activists, we decided to come up with a way to help keep Brevard County families and pets together while reducing the burden on local shelters. Throughout our lives, we’ve been blessed with having countless animals join our families and enrich our lives beyond belief, and we can’t imagine being placed in the unthinkable position of choosing between giving up our pets and making them go hungry. This was our motivation for starting Space Coast Kibble Kitchen.