Ten years ago today we held our first pet food bank on a sunny June 6th, in Northwest Denver at Bienvenidos Food Bank. This adventure started as an experiment. I knew I had stuff in my cupboard that my pups didn’t need, and I figured most pet families did as well. The idea was to collect all of the pet food that people didn’t need or want, and get it to those who would use it. The original plan was not to expand past Denver. In fact, Denver Pet Pantry was one of the original names we considered. But then, in a moment of wishful premonition, we decided to call the organization Colorado Pet Pantry, just in case we stretched outside of Denver.
It was a slow go at first. We needed to learn everything from scratch. Was there a need? Where would we find enough pet food to serve the people coming to our pet food bank? Where would we store the pet food before it was distributed? How would we get the pet food from the donation collection locations to (what would become) our warehouse? How would we find volunteers? Would people donate to the cause? Would human food banks want to partner with us and offer this service to their clients? Would there be an ability for us to not only help people in need, but also other animal welfare organizations? And last but not least, is it ever possible to get the pet food smell out of a vehicle when bags of kibble have filled every crevice of it for the past 10 years? I can answer that one quickly, no.
The answers to all of the questions above are the kindness of people, generosity of partners, dedication of a team, and a really good vacuum.
We have learned so much over the last 10 years. We learned that the key to making change is to ask others to help and join in the effort. Colorado Pet Pantry doesn’t do anything alone. Everything we do requires multiple people, organizations, and brands. This is the group project that actually worked out, because Colorado is so dedicated to its pets.
Every year people ask me where I envision Colorado Pet Pantry going next. That’s such a hard question. Life is full of twists and turns… the economy, a global pandemic, inflation, supply chain bottlenecks; there are so many things that affect people and business livelihoods, which in turn affect our capacity to help.
The vision is that all pets in Colorado have the food they need, and families have the ability to keep their pets through thick and thin. But the reality is the Colorado Pet Pantry grows as more people and partners learn about this easy way to keep pets with their families. Our goal is to give pet families relief. That relief means we must make decisions, cautiously and carefully. As we gain more volunteers, acquire more pet food, and raise more funds, we are able to grow and help more pets.
What is truly remarkable, is how people will step up, and life‘s twists and turns become opportunities to help communities. In turn we all get to see and feel the benefits. In another 10 years, I expect you’ll see many more people being assisted by Colorado Pet Pantry. You will see more partners joining the effort to keep pets with their families. And you will see our organization in every part of the state where need exists.
I’ve always looked at what Colorado Pet Pantry does as a solvable problem. We don’t need to produce more food, or pet supplies, to help people get what they need. What we need to do is figure out how to get all of these items from the people and businesses who don’t need them, to the people who do need them.
After 10 years, we now have 102 monthly pet food banks throughout the state of Colorado (click here for a map of all our open-to-the-public pet food banks). In 2013, I would have never imagined that’s what our future held. But now, I see a future where other states have statewide pet food banks, and Colorado Pet Pantry helps to mentor that process. Where volunteers know that in just a few hours each month, they can make a real difference in the lives of pets and people in their communities. That anyone with a little extra pet food in their cupboard can know that donating that bag might make the difference of someone being able to keep their pet, versus relinquishing it to a shelter. That donors know it takes just a few dollars to make a huge difference in the lives of pet guardians in their neighborhoods.
Watching the volunteers and staff at Colorado Pet Pantry, I can tell you that everyone works hard to make this organization run smoothly, so people can get the help they need, when they need it.
But what we’re doing is not difficult per sé, and after 10 years, I can truly say that the reason we thrive is because of our team. This team includes you, someone who loves and values pets AND humans alike. In another 10 years, I believe the love will continue to grow, spread, and fill those bellies with good food and an occasional tasty little treat.
Thank you for supporting us over this incredible decade. Decade number two starts today, we’re so grateful that you’re here with us.