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Fargo volunteers launch pet pantry to help local dogs, cats

The group's first free food distribution event is set for Sunday morning, July 12, and organizers hope the effort will continue to grow.

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Volunteers split up and portioned the first round of donated dog and cat food to get ready for the Fargo Area Pet Pantry's first distribution event on Sunday, July 12. Special to The Forum

FARGO — Heather Martinez wanted to find a way to keep local dogs and cats healthy and safe — and when the coronavirus pandemic struck, launching the country into an economic downturn, she figured the time might be right to spring into action.

That's why the north Fargo resident recently posted to several local Facebook groups wondering if there was support and interest in the community for an effort to collect donated pet food and distribute it for free to anyone who needed some help feeding their furry family members.

"It kind of exploded overnight," she says.

Martinez and a handful of other local volunteers have since launched the Fargo Area Pet Pantry, setting up a Facebook page to help get the word out . For now, the effort is focused on the most common pets — cats and dogs — though she says some people have asked about rabbit or chinchilla food, and more types of food could be available if the demand and donations are there.

One big goal was to make the process of getting food easy, she says. That's why organizers sought out a dedicated place and time to set up, allowing anyone in the area who needs some help to come by, fill out a form and waiver and get the food their pets need.

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Fargo Area Pet Pantry will hold its first free food distribution event from 8:30-10 a.m. Sunday, July 12, in the parking lot of The Arc, 255 N. University Drive, Fargo. Martinez says the group plans to keep doing distributions at that time and location each Sunday morning, adding The Arc was "very generous" to offer its lot to make this possible.

The first distribution will be a bit of a test run, she says, to gauge demand in the community and see if there are more specific requests for food for later events.

Martinez says she hasn't weighed the first batch of donations, but it was "quite a bit," including one donation of a 55-pound bag of dog food and a 16-pound bag of cat food. Another person donated more than 50 containers of wet dog food, and several others brought in smaller donations.

A handful of volunteers put in a total of 20 hours of work to go through donations and bag it into individual portions. People who attend the distribution will receive food based on the number of animals in their household, she says.

"It might not be what your pet is used to eating or it may not be their favorite, but it still will fill their belly," she says.

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Heather Martinez is the lead volunteer and organizer of the Fargo Area Pet Pantry. Special to The Forum

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She says she's hoping to get a better idea of the local need after Sunday's first event. Her goal is to eventually offer a second distribution event each week on a different day and at a different location, possibly somewhere in south Fargo, to make the process as easy as possible.

It's a personal cause of sorts for Martinez, but she says she's never had employment that directly involved pets — her background is in mental health and retail. Still, the proud owner of two cats, Dobby and Nimbus, and lifelong lover of dogs says she wants to find a way to help the community.

For Martinez, it's a way of giving back and keeping in mind that there are many who live paycheck to paycheck and aren't far away from being in a situation where they need a boost — especially during the pandemic.

"If people are being hit with hard times because they've lost a job or they're self-employed and now have no income, that doesn't mean that they're irresponsible pet owners and it doesn't mean anything like that," she says. "Their pets should be getting help."

Fargo Area Pet Pantry is now accepting cat and dog food of all types, and monetary donations can be used to help cover costs of supplies for portioning out meals for pets.

If you go

What: Fargo Area Pet Pantry's first free distribution event

When: 8:30-10 a.m. Sunday, July 12

Where: The Arc parking lot, 255 N. University Drive, Fargo

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Info: visit www.facebook.com/fargopetpantry or email fargopetpantry@gmail.com for more details or to inquire about making a donation

Related Topics: PETSFARGONORTH DAKOTA
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