“Ad astra per aspera” is the state motto of Kansas, which translates to “to the stars through difficulties” – a sentiment that has never felt more true than it does today. It emphasizes our values and optimism that, even when faced with the most difficult hardships, we come together as a state and keep our sights set on what’s important. We launched our #AdAstraStrong campaign to highlight “stars” throughout Kansas who are going above and beyond to give back to their community and provide hope during these challenging times.
We have extended this campaign by partnering with the Kansas Association of Community Foundations to recognize communities and organizations that are working on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic, standing up for racial equality and working to better their local communities. The selected local community foundation promoting its stars will receive a $10,000 donation from our Blue Health Initiatives. Stay tuned for more star stories and stay #AdAstraStrong.
We are excited to recognize our next community star, the Southeast Kansas Humane Society, which was nominated by the Community Foundation of Southeast Kansas. We talked with Jasmine Kyle, the Humane Society’s business and promotions manager about the pet food pantry they ran to help families feed their pets during the COVID-19 pandemic.
How did the idea for a free pet food pantry come about?
When the pandemic started, shelters across the United States saw a massive increase of surrendered and abandoned animals because their owners were no longer able to afford food and other necessities for them after being laid off. Our shelter reached beyond our capacity in just two weeks and we had every single housing unit full. We even had to convert our outdoor exercise areas into extra holding spaces because we had over 140 animals.
We reached our breaking point when 12 adolescent puppies were thrown in a nearby river system. Thankfully through our amazing staff’s teamwork we were able to save all of them. After that, I sat down and asked myself what we can do to help people during this time. I immediately thought of food pantries and of creating one for pet food in hopes to help families in the area and decrease the number of pets being surrendered to the shelter. I immediately started calling food distributers and reaching out to other organizations to obtain pallets of pet food for our community.
When did you start the pantry and how long did it run?
The pet food pantry ran from April 25 to July 1. The pantry was open for two days each week. During the program we distributed over 6,000 pounds of dog and cat food. Then, on July 29 we had a whole pallet of wet cat food delivered that was about to expire so we held another free wet cat food pantry night. There was a line of 25 cars waiting 30 minutes before we were set to open. An hour later we had given out all 1,344 cans of cat food to families in need.
How was the pet food pantry run?
I am the business and promotions manager at the Humane Society, so I ran the pantry myself. Covid-19 cases were on the rise and we didn’t want to risk exposing volunteers in any way. Each scheduled day I handed out pet food for two hours to families in need to help them keep their pets during this pandemic. Because of the efforts of the food pantry, we saw less pets being surrendered to the shelter. Within the first two weeks of the program there were hardly any animals left on our shelter grounds late at night.
Was the pet food acquired through donations?
We had a small amount of food donated through the community, but our town and county was hit hard during the pandemic and even monthly donations to the shelter started to drastically plummet. We instead focused on networking with other food distributors and organizations to obtain pet food for the program. We were able to obtain food from the United States Humane Society through Greater Good, True Valu Merchandising, Purina and our county’s emergency manager.
What is something you’d like the people in your community to know? Or, something you’d like to tell all of them?
We want to thank our community for all their support during our more than 40 years of service. We are completely donor based so we wouldn’t be operating without our supporters, animal advocates and businesses. During this pandemic, we are so glad that we were able to give back to our community and help animals stay together with their families during this difficult time.