Crystal Diamond is 67 and says she lives on about $600 a month from Social Security.
It’s not easy for her to afford her own food, let alone provisions for her five, once-stray cats. But Diamond said she can’t do without her pets.
“That’s the only companions I have,” she said.
About 11 a.m. Friday, she gladly waited in line at Wichita’s First Metropolitan Community Church for what organizers say is the only pet-food pantry in the county helping low-income people to provide for their pets.
Some beneficiaries come from as far away as Winfield. Sometimes, the line for pet food stretches from the church basement steps leading to the pantry, back down a sidewalk and stretching around the corner on South Kansas near Douglas.
The church also provides human food to 900 to 1,000 needy people a week, and it realized that some of them were denying themselves food because they were sharing with their pets, said the church pastor, Jackie Carter. Human food often isn’t good for pets.
The pet-food pantry has been operating in its current scope for about 19 months now, said Kim Roseberry, the pantry chairwoman. It hands out pet food, kitty litter and donated accessories including collars, leashes, shampoo and beds, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the third Friday of each month – or until supplies run out.
Cat food is one supply that goes quickest. The giveaway is scheduled on the third Friday because many of the beneficiaries run low on money as the end of the month approaches, Roseberry said.
On Friday, the pet pantry gave out supplies to 56 households worth of pets: 123 cats, 78 dogs, 13 kittens, five puppies, five rats, two birds and one guinea pig.
Besides having lower incomes, some of the people have the added challenge of mental illness. Sometimes the challenge is a car that won’t start.
As the people waited in line Friday, one young woman who had just gotten her family’s pet food allotment walked back and announced to everyone that she could use jumper cables. A woman in line said she might be able to help.
It makes sense that people facing life’s challenges take in animals that need help, said Sharon Revell, who works as a pet pantry volunteer.
“I think people who struggle tend to pay more attention to struggling animals,” Revell said. “It’s empathy.”
A number of those in line Friday said they had adopted stray dogs or cats.
Much of pet food comes from the Kansas Food Bank, which gets donations from area stores. Some of the pet supplies are donated by retailers because the bulk bags are damaged.
On Friday, Roseberry sat at a laptop in the church basement, and one by one the recipients approached her with ID in hand. The pantry requests IDs and proof of address to help keep track of how many people it is helping, she said.
As Roseberry checks the ID, volunteers hand over bags of supplies based on the number and type of pet. It basically amounts to three pounds for a cat and six pounds for a dog.
Fortunately, for those lined up outside on Friday, the rain and thunder let up. And the line was shorter than normal.
Down the alley past them, a rooster kept crowing in someone’s back yard.
“We’re here, rain, snow or shine,” said the Diamond, the woman with the five cats.
“This is such a blessing.”
Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or firstname.lastname@example.org.