Since 2012, 4 Paws Pantry has been helping local pets stay with their families by providing food for low-income pet parents in need. In order to provide that much-needed assistance, 4 Paws needs monetary donations, which it uses to purchase pet food at a much lower cost than the general public through the national pet rescue food bank.
The small organization doesn't have the funds to throw a big fundraising gala, said Sandi Smith, social media manager and Signal Mountain resident. Instead, the pet food bank is holding a fundraising event called #EATDRINKANDDONATE at The Big Chill & Grill Thursday, Feb. 8 from 6-8:30 p.m. Representatives from the organization will be on-hand providing information about the food bank, and The Big Chill is donating a portion of the proceeds from that night to 4 Paws.
The Humane Educational Society allows the independent pet food bank to operate out of a space inside its facility free of charge, so 95 percent of the money donated to 4 Paws goes back into the community, aside from the cost of the phone bill and a rented storage facility.
In addition to providing food for clients for a period of up to six months, 4 Paws also assists clients with low-cost spay and neuter bills, said Smith.
Hamilton County residents are the pet food bank's first priority, though the nonprofit has been able to help people in other counties as well, Smith said. The organization recently partnered with Brittany Graves, owner of 3 B's Pet Care and Boutique in Cleveland, who was named Mrs. Tennessee last year and made the food bank part of her platform. 4 Paws now accepts donations and distributes food in Bradley County through Graves' shop, said Smith.
Since 4 Paws was founded by Hixson resident Betty Crawford five years ago, it has provided 1.2 million meals and kept more than 3,000 pets at home with their families, Smith said. The organization has also garnered more than 2,200 followers worldwide on Twitter, and has received donations from across the world, she said.
But the need never stops, and Smith said 4 Paws has new families apply for assistance every month.
"We have a great need among senior citizens of limited incomes, who will feed their pets before they'll feed themselves," she said. "Sometimes that's they're only family."
Other clients may have lost their job, or get an unexpectedly high energy bill.
"Most people only need our help once or twice," said Smith. "We just want to keep the pets with their families."
While financial donations are best since the organization can purchase food at a lower cost, 4 Paws is always accepting donations of wet and dry dog and cat food as well as cat litter. Food donations can be dropped off at the Humane Educational Society or 3 B's in Cleveland, and secure tax-deductible donations can be made at 4pawspantry.org.
The Big Chill is at 103 Cherokee Blvd., and 4 Paws Pet Food Pantry is located inside the Humane Educational Society at 212 N. Highland Park Ave.