From left are 4 Paws Pantry co-founder Sandi Smith, Chattanooga Humane Educational Society Executive Director Bob Citrullo and pantry co-founder Betty Crawford.

This month, 4 Paws Pantry, which provides pet food to Hamilton County residents in need, is celebrating its sixth anniversary. Since 2012, the organization has provided over 1.2 million meals, helping more than 4,000 pets to stay with their families, said pantry co-founder Sandi Smith.

The pantry originally operated out of a rented space in Red Bank, until forming a partnership two years ago with Chattanooga's Humane Educational Society to distribute food out of its space. Pantry co-founder Betty Crawford said the organization has taken off since the partnership began, as it has allowed 4 Paws to eliminate most of its overhead costs, aside from the phone bill and cost to store the donated pet food.

In 2018 alone, the organization served 412 dogs and 351 cats, many of whom would have otherwise been dropped off somewhere or surrendered to a shelter, Crawford said.

"We see it every day," HES Executive Director Bob Citrullo said of surrendered pets.

He said the pantry provides a vital service — he was the first person to donate a huge container of pet food to the organization back when it was started, said Crawford.

"Our relationship with them allows us to do what we do," said Crawford, who currently meets pantry clients by appointment at the shelter, where she sets up a temporary office in the cat area.

When the shelter moves to its new building on South Access Road, which is expected to happen sometime between this fall and next summer, the pantry will have its own space within the new facility. With the awareness that the pantry's greater visibility in the new building will provide, pantry officials hope to follow through on one of their original goals: requiring all clients receiving food to have their pets spayed and neutered, in an effort to reduce the number of pets in need of food that may eventually end up in shelters.

A mission shared with HES, the shelter submitted a video on spay and neuter to First Tennessee Bank's 25 Years of Giving Video Contest. People can vote daily through Friday, Aug. 31 for videos submitted by area nonprofits at The top 30 vote-getters will move on to the next round, in which the First Tennessee Bank Foundation's panel of judges will select 25 organizations to receive grants between $5,000 and $25,000 each. Winners will be announced Oct. 1, and the pantry hopes the shelter will be among the recipients to help them fund the spay and neuter of more pets.

"We try to promote responsible pet ownership," Crawford said. "We could reach more people and do more good if more people learn about it and donate to it."

The all-volunteer pantry operates solely on food and monetary donations, as well as the money raised through its #NoEmptyBowl fundraisers held three times a year. The next is set for Sept. 24-26, when local restaurants Stone Cup, Shuford's Smokehouse, Mike's Hole in the Wall and The Daily Ration will give a portion of the day's proceeds to the pet food pantry. For the specific days and times each restaurant will be participating, follow the organization on Facebook for updates.

To learn more about 4 Paws Pantry or to make a donation via PayPal or its Amazon Wish List, visit

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