When times are financially difficult, it's not just family members who suffer. The economic hardship can affect family pets as well.
That's why Josie Gonzalez opened Ben's Pet Pantry in the Lower Valley on July 11. The pantry provides pet food and veterinary services, such as spaying and neutering when funds are available, for people experiencing financial hardship. It is named for her dog.
Gonzalez said she started the nonprofit organization about four years ago when she volunteered at the Humane Society of El Paso and would see a lot of puppies and kittens brought in.
"I asked them one day why they kept coming in, and (Humane Society staff) said it was basically because people couldn't afford to keep them and feed them. Around that time, the economy crashed and a lot of people had lost their jobs and they had closed a lot of companies," she said.
Gonzalez said she initially started small, with her and her husband purchasing pet food in bulk and distributing it in small plastic bags. Eventually, she had volunteers help distribute the food and donations also started coming in.
Wal-Mart in Northeast El Paso donates food on a regular basis. And Gonzalez has applied for grants for funds to help provide spaying and neutering.
"I thought as long as they get some food, they won't turn them into rescues or abandon them in the desert," she said.
Now, with its own storefront, the pantry, which costs about $500 to $600 a month to run, will be open Tuesday through Thursday and the first and third Saturday of the month. People are asked to fill out an assistance application with financial documentation.
Gonzalez said she has a steady stream of clients. She said she helps an average of 200 to 300 families monthly.
"I had one lady tell me she didn't buy her medicines one month so she could buy dog food," she said.
Barbara Renteria, a Clint resident, said she appreciates the extra hand she's gotten from the pantry for the past year. She has three dogs, the most recent a stray she saved from the street, and a cat.
"I moved to another house and have a bit more rent and bills to pay. And my dad passed away ... so they have been a great help," she said.
She added, "I love dogs and I know I would be stressing out if they did not have food."
María Cortés González may be reached at 546-6150.
What: Ben's Pet Pantry
When: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. the first and third Saturday of the month
Where: 550 N. Yarbrough Suite 208
Details: The pantry provides pet food for qualifying applicants, as well as other pet-related items when available. Donations of food, money or other pet related items also accepted
Source: El Paso Times / María Cortés González
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