One day, Kenneth Gonsalves saw a local man at a store scraping together change to pay for a can of cat food. Wanting to help the stranger, he ended up buying several cans of pet food for him.
Having a pet can be expensive, but most of us don’t think twice about the costs of keeping one (or more). That’s because the love that our animal companions give us is priceless.
Still, Kenneth couldn’t stop thinking about the encounter. He worried that the man wasn’t only struggling to buy food for his cat, but food for himself, too.
He decided to look for answers and took to Facebook to ask the community where people can get free pet food, and he was shocked by their responses.
“The only answer we could get was, occasionally at food pantries sometimes they have animal food if somebody donates,” he said.
Kenneth told his wife, Jill, about it, and the couple decided to open a pet food pantry in their front yard farm stand late last year. The farm stand has been in Kenneth’s family for decades, and the house where the couple lives next door was his grandfather’s. But instead of vegetables, the stand is now full of various kibbles.
Initially, they stocked it up with six totes full of cat and dog food they bought with their own money. Struggling pet owners could come by to anonymously pick up what they need. People could also drop off what they could give.
“A lot of people who lost their job during the pandemic and still aren’t back working,” Jill said. “People who have lost their jobs, we have senior citizens in need, people who live in the housing authority or trailer parks this is for anyone who needs a helping hand.”
And to make sure that people know about it, Kenneth and Jill set up the Acushnet Pet Food Pantry Facebook page and shared it with other groups on the platform.
“When we started, we weren’t even sure people would use us,” Jill said. “At best, we were hoping to be able to provide enough to help people get through the holidays.”
But thanks to their Facebook page and word of mouth, news spread about their project, and donations of more pet food started pouring in. Soon enough, they were coming home to stacks of food. Within months, their farm stand was full.
People also donated treats and toys. The couple has also received hundreds of online orders, drop-offs, and monetary donations.
Kenneth and Jill also got many thank you notes from people who benefited from the pantry.
“I just need to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I haven’t worked in over a month with a two-year-old at home. Dad brings in about $300/week. From the pandemic to Christmas, it has been tough. But with the help of beautiful people like you, my fur baby can now eat a little bit longer, and my heart is happy,” one note read.
“My husband and I recently lost our jobs.” another said. “I would like to thank you for helping us feed our fur babies…Thank you so very much for your help. God bless and stay safe.”
The fact that the pantry is a farm stand is encouraging for most people.
“When we first started this, someone who visited us mentioned how it made them feel good to be able to browse without feeling like they were being watched,” Jill said. “So, it’s been important to us to maintain that integrity.”
The Acushnet Food Pantry is located at this address:
95 Wing Road
508-951-2136 or 774-766-0475
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