44,500 Pounds Of Gratitude

It’s a beautiful thing when the stars align and, in this case, the heavens began to move in our direction with a simple phone call.  On the other end of the line was Softie, Chris Hughes

“Hey Sande, the VP at Weruva just called me because they have some cat food to donate – is it okay if I give him your contact info?”

Is it okay?  Are you kidding?   We’ve been frantically searching for food for the past three months as we’ve watched Baltimore’s colony caretakers stretched to the breaking point trying to keep pace with anywhere from 20 to over 100 homeless mouths to feed every day.  Certainly,  it’s not been an easy time for anyone, but market conditions are multiplied when you’re talking about volunteers, many on limited incomes, trying to care for hundreds, if not thousands, of cats thrown away by others like trash. 

That same evening, I received the official call from Tony at Weruva – they had approximately 5,000 pounds of cat food to donate assuming we could arrange transport from Southern Maryland. 

Truly, if we’d had to wheel it across the Bay Bridge ourselves, we would have done it, but, fortunately, this was not our first rodeo.  We have a secret weapon in the form of a Board member’s husband, who runs a company that involves shipping, so not only would he send a truck, but he’d also let us use his warehouse for storing and distribution.  

Now it was just a waiting game for the food to arrive, and that wait was soon puncuated by a second phone call.  This time from Shelby, Mom to Hayden, a 10-year-old Softie in Training and proud Cat Guy whom we met at Pawject Runway.

Shelby and Hayden wanted to do something for Show Your Soft Side and BARCS, so she was calling to ask, “What do you need?”

My answer was simple, CAT FOOD, CAT FOOD and MORE CAT FOOD.  

And with that, the dynamic duo launched into a two-week, employer sponsored donation drive that we shared with caretakers of large colonies in the Baltimore metropolitan area.

As if that weren’t enough, we then learned that we were receiving an enormous donation of dog and cat food, thanks to HSUS and Chewy

Suddenly, every star in the heavens fell into place.  Not only would HSUS and Chewy donate 29 pallets of dog and cat food, but it would be arriving within a few days.

On a scorching hot Friday, a truck with 39,000 pounds of dog and cat food arrived at the warehouse of our secret weapon and for the next four days, a Board member, her husband, son and friends broke down 29 pallets to get us ready for business.  The call went out on social media to pet parents down on their luck and local food pantries, as well as church and community organizations that we’d be doing a two-day giveaway.

It might be a good time to point out, we have an all-women board and only one is under the age of 50 so the next step was rallying some volunteers.  In addition to our longtime volunteers, we had national sales managers, insurance agency owners, retirees and high school football players reporting for duty.  All that muscle came in handy when Shelby and Hayden arrived with a trailer filled to the brim with cat food and accessories.  We now had 5,000 pounds from Weruva, 39,000 pounds from HSUS/Chewy AND over 500 pounds from a 10-year old and his Mom. 

We were ready to roll.  

For the next two days, we hoisted and carried the bulk of our stash to waiting and very grateful recipients.  We met a senior who was feeding her dog boxed mac & cheese because that’s all she could afford, as well as food pantries who told us pet food was the number one item requested by their clientele. 

It was exhausting work, hot days and Advil nights, but every sweaty second was worth it.  It took roughly a week and change between receiving all the food and distributing it, but for us, it was the very best week of the year. 

How do we even begin to thank Weruva, HSUS, Chewy, Hayden and our amazing volunteers for making this Summer Pet Aid possible?  If gratitude could be measured, we’d owe them all a whopping 44,500 pounds of thanks.

Note: What started as an emergency measure during Covid has become a passion for all of us at Soft Side. Since launching Pet Aid in May 2020, we’ve distributed 110,300 pounds of cat and dog food to colony caretakers and pet parents in need. Our hope is that we can continue to work with both our current partners and new ones to ensure that all of our four-legged neighbors are fed.