Pet lovers can breathe a little easier and worry a little less about taking care of their companions when times get tough.
The Okanagan’s Animal Food Bank is expanding into the Similkameen in the next few weeks as they move south from Kelowna.
The Animal Food Bank works together with local food banks, and where there aren’t any they are stepping in themselves.
“I’ll expand out as far as somebody will be a donation location, and I can distribute the food for them,” said founder Nicole Wilks. “Right now that’s as far as Vernon. The next logical spot for me was the Southern Okanagan into Keremeos and Cawston.”
After an encounter with a homeless man in Kelowna, and his dog Odin, Wilks was inspired to establish the Animal Food Bank to help an under-represented demographic. Helping pets and their owners also helps with supporting and relieving other supports from the community and government.
“What those pets do to save the taxing of the social services system, they help with depression, they help with addiction, they provide loyalty and love and companionship,” said Wilks. “The value they add to a person is immeasurable.”
After only a few short months, the food bank has expanded well beyond the boundaries of Kelowna.
“We launched around Dec. 17 and went through 2,000 pounds of food by Christmas,” said Wilks. “I think that was a spike due to the circumstances of the season. On the average, for a month, we’ve gone through about 700 to 1,000 pounds. The need is definitely there, and that is the passion in which we expand quickly.”
Bringing the Animal Food Bank to the Similkameen has been in the works for a while, as Wilks has her own history in the region, having worked on an organics farm in Cawston for a few years. The expansion has recently picked up a boost of support with additional volunteers offering their support. One is a resident in Hedley who regularly drives into Keremeos and the other is the owner of My Dog’s Paw mobile pet salon, who regularly serves customers in the region. The expansion still requires a place to drop off the food before it is distributed.
“Because we’re dealing with a bit more of a rural area, compared to Kelowna, the model is a bit different and we haven’t worked out those details. But with so many volunteers, those details tend to come together by themselves. We love our pets, and we love other people’s pets, and we just want to help all the pets.”
The Animal Food Bank isn’t going to be stopping at Keremeos any time soon, with Princeton likely to be the next location it will serve next.
“I just had a mental health worker reach out to me from Princeton saying a lot of their clients struggle to feed themselves, let alone their pets, and that this service would be very welcomed in Princeton,” said Wilks. “So now we’re talking about how to expand it out that way too.”
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