For some, no holiday present could be sweeter than time with a beloved animal companion, but that love and loyalty may not be enough to keep a pet fed.

However, some local residents are trying to bridge the gap. Linda Groce and Theresa Jones opened a Pet Food Pantry on Dec. 17, and plan to keep it open until January, and possibly to the end of January.

“We have a bunch of donations of dog food and cat food and we’re looking for people that are in need, that are struggling with bills during the holidays. They can come and pick up some free (pet) food,” Groce said.

The plans for the pantry were posted recently on social media.

Groce, who works at LaValley Building Supply, said pet food donations could be dropped off at LaValley’s on Monday through Thursday. The pantry is only accepting food donations and not toys or treats.

Any food that remains when the pantry expires will be donated to the Rutland Community Cupboard, local rescue organizations and the Feline Connection.

The social media post asked readers to help identify any elderly people on a set income who needed assistance with food for their dog or cat.

The outreach on social media has been effective. Groce said the project had gotten a lot of donations.

“People can still donate, but we really need to get the word out to people who need it,” she said.

Groce said she was inspired by a Facebook posting of somebody starting a holiday pet pantry in a city.

“I thought it would be cool to do. I said, ‘Who’s with me?’ and Theresa Jones said, ‘I’ll do it.’ So her and I got together,” she said.

Groce said her father, Erwin West, had some space to store the donations on Woodstock Avenue in Rutland.

Groce, a pet lover herself, said she has a Great Dane, and also takes care of a feral cat.

With donations in hand, Groce said she and Jones reached out to social organizations like BROC, Meals on Wheels and staff at Rutland Regional Medical Center.

She said she was surprised at the number of donations of bagged and canned dog and cat food, as well as kitty litter.

This pet food pantry is using the honor system to find recipients, Groce said.

“We’re not screening anybody because I figure if somebody takes advantage, shame on them. But we don’t want to embarrass anybody or put anybody on the spot,” Groce said.

Groce has already made a delivery to one person who is disabled.

Those in need of a pet food donation can contact Groce at LaValley’s or at 779-2765.

If the pantry continues to go well this year, and space is available in 2020, Groce said she and Jones would like to do it again next year.

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