By HEATHER WALTERS
Pet owners who were either quarantined this past year due to COVID-19 or who were facing financial struggles from the pandemic received a special gift from FoCCAS, Friends of the Colleton County Animal Shelter.
The non-profit group has initiated the FoCCAS Food Pantry, a dog and cat food pantry program that is helping to support pet food needs for Colleton residents who are struggling because of the respiratory virus.
“Many people found it hard to pay for rent, utilities and even food. Although they loved their pets, their financial situation made it hard to provide for them,” said Sarah Miller, vice president of FoCCAS and a history professor at the University of South Carolina Salkehatchie campus in Walterboro.
The food pantry idea began back in April of 2020, when an anonymous donor gave $500 to FoCCAS so that its volunteers could buy bags of dog food and cat food. That food was then put into local food pantries, so that it was available to pet owners who were in need. One of those food pantries is located at the Bethel United Methodist Church Food Pantry in Walterboro. Other food pantries in the Colleton County area that disperse donated cat and dog food are at Edgewood Baptist Church, St. Anthony’s Catholic Church and St. Jude’s Church.
The FoCCAS Food Pantry program has become so large that current FoCCAS President Jeannette Neal now delivers pet food to each of the above churches at least once a month, according to Miller.
“Through connections with local businesses, she (Neal) has been able to purchase bags of dog and cat food at bulk prices, cutting the overall cost to provide for the food pantries,” Miller said. “Monetary donations allow FoCCAS to supply consistently-sized bags of similar food to each of the pantries.”
As of December 28, FoCCAS has spent $750 per month throughout the entire year of 2020 to provide for family pets through food pantries. Each month, roughly 225 bags of dog and cat food are helping more than 175 families in Colleton County to keep their pets in their homes, said Miller.
In addition to the Food Pantry Program, FoCCAS is also helping to spay and neuter pets in the county. The group also provides vaccines and medicine to pet owners, along with continuing to pay for vet visits for adoptable pets.
In the first 10 months of 2020, FoCCAS spent nearly $75,000 on all of its outreach and programs. “We couldn’t do all of this without the support of the public, donors, sponsors and volunteers,” said Neal. “FoCCAS is proud of what we have accomplished and hope to continue to make Colleton County a better place for animals.”
Anyone wanting to donate to the FoCCAS Food Pantry Program can do so by donating electronically at www.foccas-sc.org or by mailing a check to FoCCAS Food Pantry, 33 Poor Farm Rd., Walterboro, S.C. 29488.
The food pantry initiative will carry over into 2021 for any Colleton County pet owner who is in need.