Award-winning entertainer Ellen DeGeneres holds a special place in her heart for animals and does what she can through to help feed and care for people’s pets throughout the country. Locally, DeGeneres chose to lend a helping hand to Central Florida Animal Pantry when she learned of its impact on the community and the number of animals they are trying to serve.
Halo, Purely for Pets (www.halopets.com) is leading producer of holistic pet care products. Vice President, Marketing Communications for Halo, David Yaskulka said, “we’re honored to support a wonderful organization like the Central Florida Animal Pantry in partnership with Halo co-owner Ellen DeGeneres, Warner Bros. Entertainment, and WESH 2 Orlando. It’s part of our commitment to donate one million meals of Halo Spot’s Stew this year.”
DeGeneres became part owner of Halo after learning of the company’s commitment to quality and nourishment for the pets. She stated that “if you’re going to have pets, you should treat them like you’d treat yourself.” Following philosophy, Halo pet products avoids any ingredients that are not fit for human consumption.
“Helping animals has always been a passion of mine,” DeGeneres said. “So, we agreed to donate one million meals of Halo to shelter pets. I mean, imagine, an animal in a shelter, in a cage, lonely – a good meal is kinda all they have to look forward to, until you adopt them!” DeGeneres and Halo strongly encourage people who are interested in a pet to go to their local animal shelters first.
The two shelters of the SPCA of Central Florida reported on their web site that they receivedalmost 14,000 companion animals annually – or an average of 269 animals each week of the year – from community members who were unable or unwilling to continue to care for them.
Dave McDaniel recently reported on WESH 2 news that animal services euthanized 500 animalslast month because they didn’t have the space for them. “It made us come to terms with a verylarge problem,” Erica said. “A problem even I was turning a blind eye too. The Pantry is notreaching enough pets.” The animal pantry hopes to reduce these numbers by keeping pets in the homes of their owners.
Central Florida Animal Pantry (CFAP) is the vision of Zach Wilson who was nine years-old andvisited an area animal shelter and saw all the helpless pets in cages. “I could never give upmy dog,” he said, while looking up to his mother, Erica. He had difficulty sleeping that night and when he woke up, Zach asked Erica that if he could help to feed them, maybe more dogs and cats would be able to stay with their families.
As they continued their research, they learned that the state of the economy has caused many families to reconsider their priorities. “Some parents lose their jobs and they have to decide between food for their kids or food for their pets,” Zach said while playing with his own dog, Brandi, a rescued Labrador/German Shepherd mix.
Crystal, the family pet of an Orlando homeless couple
At the time, Zach, was a third grader at Wekiva Elementary School in Longwood, and a Webelo in Cub Scout Pack 601 in Apopka. He and Erica formed CFAP thinking it would generate some interest and he and his family could distribute the collected items themselves. However, the concept caught on quickly and the Wilson garage was soon transformed into a pet food warehouse.
In May of 2009, a distribution location was donated to CFAP. “We are so pleased and happy to serve the animals more efficiently, Erica said. “We’ve met people from all walks of life –those that have struggled for their entire lives as well as those who aren’t used to asking for help, but now have no other choice.” The organization is now looking a small warehouse in Apopka with bay doors in order to accommodate some of the larger donations and to more easily load the trucks as food and supplies are prepared for distribution.
“In after a year we never know what our day will be like,” Erica explained. “We are always amazed at the phone calls or interest people take in what Zach is doing.” Some of the stories are difficult for the Wilson family to hear, but as a non-profit help organization, it is something they have to adjust with.
CFAP now serves about 2000 families throughout the year distributing an average of 1000 poundsof dog and cat food per week. But even with that amount, the need is increasing. “What people don’t know,” Zach admitted, is that “when the pantry runs out of food, my mom will go out and buy it.”
“Recently, I had a family come into the pantry,” Erica said of one of the thousands who have come to them for help. “They had pulled up in an older truck with a topper on it that obviously wasn’t made for that truck. They were making it work.” She said that in the cab of the truck was a black dog sticking it’s head out of the window.
When the man walked in he said he heard the pantry could help them with food for his dog. Erica explained that they could, but some basic paperwork was required. “When I asked for a current utility bill,” Erica said, “he looked at me and said he didn’t have one. He went on to explain that he and his dog were living out of the truck.”
A single mother with 1 dog and 2 cats was recently laid-off. She said that her pets “are like having more children and we love them much but with the financial situation, it is hard to feed all of them the way they are used to being fed.” She explained that she had a job interview the following week and that “God willing, I will go to work next week and would love to donate to this cause after I have a job. You are a saving grace.”
Wayne Pacelle. President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, in an article in The Huffington Post said that “of the dogs and cats in our homes, fewer than one in five come from shelters or rescue groups. If we were able to increase that percentage of adopted animals by just a percentage, we could prevent the euthanasia of more than 3 million healthy and treatable pets in America. It’s a problem that has plagued our cause for so many years.”
Zach is now ten years-old and said his plans are to continue working with the animal pantry and doing whatever is necessary to reach out and help area pets. He has a strong interest in Forensic Science and may be pursuing that career.
His “first love” is Brandi, his Labrador/German Shepherd mix the family obtained from a rescue agency. However, he admits that he has never met an animal he does not love. When he is able to find the time, Zach enjoys swimming, playing video games, camping and “just hanging out with friends.”
CFAP and Pookie’s Bow Wow Bakery are sponsoring a dog wash on August 21 from 10 am to 4 pm at 1980 W. Fairbanks Ave in Winter Park. Guests have an opportunity to learn more about the animal pantry and its services. They can also meet and talk with Erica and Zach while their dog receives a complmentary bath.
Erica knows that in order to serve the needs of the community, they have to expand and are urging the community to help in any way they can. The pantry accepts tax-deductible monetary donations, pet food, supplies and could always use volunteers. CFAP also provides veterinarian and spay/neuter referrals while additional services and improvements are being discussed.
The expansion efforts include acquiring three locations, rent free for the next year, that are between 500 and 1000 square feet each. If you feel you can help in any way, please contact the pantry or visit their web site at Central Florida Animal Pantry.
The Central Florida Animal Pantry is located at 7800 S US HWY 17-92, Ste 174 in Fern Park, FL 32730. They are open for food distribution on Thursdays from 10am-1pm and be reached at 321-252-2327. Donations may be mailed to PO Box 917573, Longwood, FL. 32791.
This article was reprinted from Florida Lifestyle Online.