AUGUSTA, Ga. – Janelys Villalta of Augusta has been lucky to continue working throughout the COVID-19 pandemic but some family members have not been as fortunate. After helping them stay afloat, Villalta looks for ways to save on her own finances and that includes the care of her Yorkie mix, Remy. The pet owner was one of more than 200 people to line up at Golden Harvest Food Bank Saturday morning for its first-ever pet food drive.
“Not that dog food is super expensive but it’s nice to be able to save up,” she said.
Through a generous donation from PetSmart, the local food bank – which distributed 13,995,242 pounds of food in 2020 – was able to provide more than 700 bags of cat and dog food to 250 people by 11 a.m.
“Pets are family too and a lot of people are struggling to not only keep themselves fed but keep their pets fed,” Golden Harvest executive director Amy Breitmann.
The event was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. but started early because the line was causing traffic problems at the Golden Harvest headquarters on Commerce Drive. The turnout was a bit unexpected for the food bank since it has never done a pet drive before.
“Our feeling was that it was going to be well-received and that families would appreciate it and come out,” Breitmann said.
Many people brought their four-legged family members with them as they picked up the pet food. Unlike other food drives, the food bank did not ask for names and other information from those picking up food. Some, however, shared their stories with the food bank including a woman who, along with her husband, contracted COVID-19 and had on-going issues due to the virus, leaving them unable to work.
With volunteers kept to a minimum during the pandemic, the food bank has heavily relied on the National Guard with all food distribution and members helped to load vehicles Saturday morning.