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Blessing box stolen; people and pets go without food

Published: Mar. 19, 2021 at 3:33 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The pandemic hasn’t just had an effect on us, but also pets. Pet rescues have seen more and more pet owners giving up their pets because they can no longer afford to feed them, and some of those who stepped up to help now need a little help of their own.

Sitting right next to the Little Free Library in Jennifer Clark’s Wichita neighborhood should be a blessing box full of food for anyone that needs it, but right now that space sits empty.

“It is just non perishable items that people donate,” Clark explained.

Clark says she made the decision to begin putting the donated food in a box in her front yard shortly after the pandemic began. Some of the food is donated, some she buys herself, especially if she can find a good coupon. And, she said, the box was an immediate success. Neighbors began donating food and people in need of that food stopped by often enough that Clark had to fill it regularly. Unfortunately, at some point, the box got a little too much use. On one of her routine trips to fill it up, she found that not only had all the food been taken...but the box itself was gone as well.

“Honestly, I cried,” Clark said. “I did. I was really sad.”

The blessing box was just a large plastic container on wheels. Nothing permanent. Clark says she thought perhaps it was just a misunderstanding by the person who’d taken it. Maybe they didn’t realize the box was meant to stay put and help more than just one family, she thought. So, she put out another box. This time with a note that read, “please don’t take the box.” But, just like the first, the new blessing box disappeared. Which meant, not only would some families who needed the extra help have to do without, but so would their pets.

After delivering food to a Wichita family that Clark’s family often helps, she discovered that it wasn’t just the family members who needed the food assistance she provides. Their pets were also having to do without. So, Clark began including pet food in her blessing box right alongside the people food.

“There’s just a lot of people that need help right now, with the pandemic,” she said. “And they need help feeding their pets.”

Christy Fischer, with the Wichita Animal Action League (WAAL), said that need Jennifer Clark discovered is something her organization sees a lot. Especially at the onset of the pandemic.

“When covid hit we started getting a ton of requests for owner surrenders. People who wanted to surrender their pets to us,” Fischer said.

And, she said, people depriving themselves in favor of their pets is more common than some might think.

“Sometimes they’re (pets) the only family they have,” Fischer added. “We hear stories pretty much on a weekly basis of people that are giving up their personal food so that their pet can have what they need.”

Soon after the pandemic began, WAAL started partnering with area food banks so that people who needed help feeding themselves could also get help feeding their pets. Now, WAAL even gets a little help from smaller pantries like the one Jennifer Clark keeps trying to set up...if people would quick taking it. Clark is currently raising money to build a permanent blessing box big enough to hold plenty of people and pet food and solid enough that it won’t disappear in the night.

“I’ve started a fundraiser to raise funds to get a permanent structure out there. Something like a little free library but bigger,” Clark said.

Anyone who would like to donate to help build the new blessing box or donate food can contact Jennifer Clark on her Facebook page.

The Wichita Animal Action League can be reached by email for requests for help or inquiries on how to donate.

There are currently four community pet food bank partnerships in the Wichita area. That information can be found below.

Lighthouse Community Church

3401 E. 47th St S Wichita, KS 67216

316-554-8924

https://www.lighthousecommunitychurch.us/

Table of Hope Food Pantry

156 S. Kansas Wichita, KS 67211

316-267-1852

http://www.mccwichita.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=85:food-pantry&Itemid=729

United Methodist Open Door

2130 E. 21st St. N Wichita, KS 67214

316-267-4201

https://umopendoor.org/food/community-food-ministry/

Catholic Charities- Our Daily Bread Food Bank

2825 S. Hillside Wichita, KS 67216

316-264-8344 x 1504

https://www.catholiccharitieswichita.org/our-daily-bread-food-pantry/

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