Financial hardship doesn’t only affect people; it affects their pets, too. Lynn Molnar realized this back in October 2011 when she noticed people around her struggling to keep their pets and began hearing stories of abandoned pets.
“I remember being at the dog park and a woman who was a realtor came in with her dog, and she shared a story about going to a house to look at it and finding a Golden Retriever abandoned inside,” Lynn said. “I think this was the clincher for me, because I have a Golden Retriever, and I know how much they love and want to be a part of a family. I couldn’t imagine the anguish that dog went through to be left alone, then my heart turned toward the people — imagine their pain, their fear, their tears.”
Lynn decided to start Thankful Paws. Thankful Paws is a pet food bank located in Bel Air, Maryland that serves financially needy people, with a priority given to veterans, the homeless, and the elderly. Thankful Paws delivers pet food and supplies once a month to homes and a homeless resource center.
“Anyone is eligible if they fall within the Federal Poverty Guidelines,” Lynn said. “But we are small and deliver food personally, and try to keep our client base to the elderly, veterans, and the homeless. We help those we can. The first year we were in full operation, we delivered 12 tons of pet food. Last year that number jumped to 20 tons! The need is great!”
Fulfilling The Needs
When delivering to homes, Lynn and her team take food right up to the door. Because delivery is once a month, they try to offer a month’s worth of food and supplies. When delivering to the homeless resource center, the provided supplies are based on a sign-up sheet where homeless pet owners can list what they need.
“Homeless populations go through leashes and collars at a much faster rate than non-homeless because of the constant wear-and-tear,” Lynn said. “We usually bring a big box of such supplies and let them take whatever they need. I believe in totally respecting a homeless person. Can you imagine living in a tent with your dog — rain, snow, heat? It would be so easy to abandon the dog and go to a shelter, but many take the harder way because of love. We serve them because of love, too.”
In doing this work, Lynn has seen some extraordinary compromises made by financially needy pet parents.
“Last year, an elderly woman shared with me that before we came to deliver food, she stopped taking her medicine because she couldn’t afford the medicine and cat food,” Lynn said. “Now, she is healthy and so is her cat! It may seem like a small thing – cat food – to but some it is like bars of gold!”
Most of the food and supplies that Lynn delivers come from PetValu, a pet food and supply store. Thankful Paws also receives donations from the Maryland Food Bank and individuals. While food donations are great, Lynn says that Thankful Paws is in need of financial donations, too.
“We are growing and need to hire staff,” Lynn said. “So far it has been all volunteer, but the workload is too demanding and we need a warehouse, trucks, and some paid positions. In the first quarter of 2014 we already picked up 7 tons of food!”
The Value of Giving Back
Despite all of the hard work, Lynn says that her job brings her tremendous joy. As a pet parent herself, she is familiar with the unique love that pet parents feel for their pets, as well as the value that a pet can bring to your life. She has a cat named Happy and a Golden Retriever named Hero.
“I knew early on that something was special about Hero, and it taught me that universal love — the unconditional love of a dog — is something we all need. People need love and to be accepted. People should do that for one another, but somehow we are forgetting to do so. Dogs represent that love and never judge us and always welcome us. We can learn a lot from dogs!”
Just last week, Lynn put those beliefs into practice when she saw a homeless man standing on a median with his dog. She stopped her car and talked to the man, and found that he’d fallen on hard times. She offered him a bag of dog food and a box of Milk Bones that she had in her car for Hero.
“After I left him and I was waiting for the traffic light to change, one of the man’s homeless friends came over to him and asked about the bag of dog food,” Lynn said. “I couldn’t hear everything, but what I did hear warmed my heart. He said to his friend, ‘I don’t know, this lady came out of nowhere and gave me the bag.’ That’s all I could hear. The light changed and Hero and I went home. I chuckled to myself, ‘this lady came of nowhere…’ I kind of felt like a superhero for a minute.”
We definitely think that Lynn is a superhero, and to thank her for all that she does, we are giving her a free trial of PetPlus, a benefit program for pet owners that provides member-only access to medications at wholesale prices, plus discounts on food, supplies, boarding and more.
If you want to support Thankful Paws, head over to the website to make a donation or volunteer: http://www.thankfulpaws.org