Pet Pantry

Henrica Sheffield of Port Orange fills bags with dog bones for the Pet Pantry at the HUM Food Pantry of Grace Episcopal Church in Port Orange on Friday, July 29.

Grace Episcopal Church at 4110 S. Ridgewood Avenue in Port Orange prides itself on having an active congregation with members involved in more than 70 different ministries.

Like many local churches, Grace Episcopal has a food pantry. Unlike other churches, Grace also has a pet food pantry.

The mission of the pet food pantry is “to provide pet food to financially challenged families in an on-going effort to keep pets in their homes.”

Grace Church operates one of the few pet food pantries in Volusia County. The congregation donates pet food, supplies and cash to keep the ministry active. Volunteers distribute pet food to Halifax Urban Ministries clients on the first Monday of every month.

Buck James, HUM CEO, said, “As a pet owner myself, I think it’s awesome. Periodically some of our other pantries have done the same thing. It’s great that they do it all the time. As a pet owner you know you are going to want to take care of your pet before yourself. A lot of people feel that way. Pet food is not inexpensive, especially in today’s day and age with the increase in costs.”

It definitely meets a need, he said. “We’re super excited to be partnering with them in that.”

Rosemary Shaw and Terry Cheremsak are largely responsible for the church’s pet food pantry.

“We kind of run it together with lots of volunteers,” Ms. Shaw said. “We branched off from Sophie’s Circle and changed the name to Grace Episcopal Church Pet Pantry. We have a basket in the narthex and when people come to church on Sunday, sometimes they drop food in or they can drop it off during the week. Many people actually write a check to the church with pet pantry on the donation line as a regular part of their pledge to the church. We really do rely totally on donations.”

She added, “People that were coming for people food also had animals. We feed an average of 63 cats and 34 dogs per month. I get a couple of people that go with me and we go to Walmart and we buy what we need for the next month (usually the week before the pantry is open). I kind of keep to Pedigree and Purina for the dogs and Meow Mix for the cats. We are into community outreach and I can’t think of a better outreach then to feed animals. I love animals so much. I can’t imagine not being able to feed your animal.”

Food purchased for dogs and cats consists of both dry and wet food and treats.

The pantry can't supply a whole month, but it's a good supplement, Ms. Cheremsak said. “Pets that might have gone to a shelter are home.”

To qualify for the pet pantry, they have to be registered with HUM.

Sophie’s Circle remains active as a registered nonprofit dog rescue operation that also operates a pet food bank pantry for Volusia County. Animals must be spayed and neutered and owners must be able to prove low income.

At the church, Debbie Fleming runs the human food pantry.

“If you are hungry and you’ve got a pet, the pets will get the food first,” Ms. Fleming said. “These people are devoted to their pets. I think this is such an essential program. Most of the ones that go to the pet pantry come to my food pantry.”

The Grace food pantry opened in 2005. Hours are 9 to 11:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Volunteers are always needed.

The pet food pantry is open 9 to 11 a.m. the first Monday of the month.

For more information, call (386) 252-0156 or visit halifaxurbanministries.com or call the church at (386) 767-3583.

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