The past four years have been really hard for a lot of families, pet families among them.
We've heard sad stories of people having to give up their pets because they can't afford to care for them, and truly horrific stories of pets being left behind to die in homes abandoned to foreclosure.
Families with children are having to choose between feeding their kids or feeding their pets; people who lose their jobs are struggling to take care of their dependents, including their pets; and elderly people on fixed incomes are finding that their dollars just won't stretch far enough anymore.
So it put a huge smile on my face when I got this press release in the mail:
"State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, launched 'Care and Share with Friends,' an initiative to help elderly pet owners maintain their independence and enjoy the benefits of pet ownership, in response to President Barack Obama's Interfaith and Community Service Campus Challenge that encourages people to tackle community challenges together.
"Based on data showing that many elderly pet owners who receive Meals on Wheels share one daily meal with their pets, SCF selected 'Care and Share with Friends' as a service project that is responsive to our area's unique demographics and circumstances.
"Students, faculty and staff have worked together on a shared mission to host food drives on campus to restock local pantries and deliver donations to partner community organizations that serve needy elderly pet owners.
"In the 2011-12 academic year, SCF donated 1,241 pounds of pet food to Volunteer Manatee's Pet Awareness with Seniors (PAWS) Program and 592 pounds of food for families to local food banks. SCF Venice student clubs and organizations also raised $167 for the Suncoast Humane Society's Pet Pantry."
What a job well done. It's programs such as this that show Manatee County really cares about its pet population.
And this dovetails perfectly with Manatee's initiative to become a No Kill community.
One of the tenets of No Kill is to help people retain their pets in their homes, where they can live out their lives being cared for by
people who love them. More pets being able to stay with their families means fewer pets ending up in shelters and going through the heartbreak of waiting for a new family to give them a home.
SCF deserves big paws up for this initiative, and has already begun to honor the folks who are making it happen:
"In April, SCF participated in a Care and Share Challenge to boost the total donations and recognize students, employees and clubs who donated the most pet food and the most nonperishable food for families.
"SCF student Dayle Florio and Jennifer Quick, SCF speech instructor, contributed the most pet food, and SCF student Felicita Correa and Jami O'Connor, SCF academic division secretary for the SCF Lakewood Ranch provost, donated the most nonperishable food for families. SCF Brain Bowl won the club category for donating the most pet food and nonperishable food for families."
This is another shining example of what makes Manatee County a great place to live, for people AND their pets.
M.K. Means, Herald copy editor, can be reached at 745-7054.