Humans won't be the only ones benefitting from the generosity at the Columbia County Cares food pantry during February and March.
Elementary and middle school pupils in the Columbia County 4-H program have been collecting dry pet food this month to donate to the Appling food pantry. So far, 672 pounds of dog and cat food have been collected.
Columbia County Cares, a nonprofit organization, provides temporary aid to people in need of assistance.
Pupils will continue to collect pet food as part of a community service project for the 4-H program, said Shirley Williamson, a Columbia County 4-H agent.
Anyone wishing to donate can drop off dry cat and dog food at any county elementary school through March, said Williamson, adding that bags should weigh no more than 20 pounds.
The pet food drive is the brainchild of Karen Gross, a 4-H volunteer and Columbia County Animal Care and Control Advisory Board member. Gross came up with the idea, she said, after reading an article last year in The Augusta Chronicle about an elderly woman who received food for herself and her pets at a food pantry in another part of the country.
"That's basically what got me thinking about it, the fact that so many people really do cherish their pets, and they consider them family members," said Gross, whose husband is a veterinarian.
The pantry recently started distributing pet food to their visitors and will do so until supplies run out, Columbia County Cares Director Lou Reda said.
"People are very much surprised and happy (that) they're getting something for their pets," he said.
Dog food is still available, but the food bank had run out of cat food as of last week. The organization will receive more donations in March.
Reda said the pet food drive won't be held on a permanent basis, but it might be considered again this time next year.
Gross said she hopes the program can ease the cost of pet food for those with financial woes and wants to see if it might also reduce the number of strays.
"From what I understand, the response has been overwhelming, which is wonderful," she said. "I think that's just the way the Columbia County community is."
The food pantry, at 1959 Appling-Harlem Highway, is open from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday.
Williamson said that any pet food not used by Columbia County Cares will go to the Columbia County Humane Society.
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