By Carrie Parker
East Northport Middle School’s SHARE club amassed 575 pounds of pet food during its second annual Pet Food Drive this winter, besting last year’s total of 300 pounds.
“We just started the pet food drive last year, and this year was crazy,” said counselor and SHARE advisor Theresa Braun. “The kids were really concerned about helping needy families keep their pets.”
Kelly Parker and Grace Munnie, eighth graders at the school and members of the SHARE club, said although they don’t have any pets of their own, they still have a heart for the cause.
“We wanted to make sure that people who have pets but can’t afford them would be able to keep them,” Munnie said.
Members of SHARE, which stands for “Students Helping And Relating to Each Other,” made posters to get every grade level involved with the drive, which ran for about two weeks before winter break. Donations consisted of mainly dog and cat food, but students also brought fish food, hamster food, treats and bones.
“We were surprised – it was a lot of food,” Parker said of the final tally.
Pet food many not be the first thing people think of when feeding the hungry, but there is a huge need for it, said William Gonyou, community events and food drive manager at Long Island Cares. The organization serves thousands of hungry families and individuals in the region, and – since initiating Baxter’s Pet Pantry in 2009 – their pets as well.
“We noticed many of our clients having to decide between feeding themselves and getting rid of their pet,” said Gonyou. “We didn’t want them to have to make that decision.”
He added that SHARE’s contribution will “make a huge difference” to a number of families.
Parker said that, with SHARE, “it’s nice to have a group of people that you can help other people with.” Members are nominated by their peers through an anonymous write-in process at the beginning of the year.
Braun emphasized that selection is not based on popularity.
“There are a range of kids in it, but they are all natural helpers among their peers and are trustworthy, sensitive, reliable and good listeners,” she said.
SHARE coordinates at least three community service projects during the year. With the conclusion of the Pet Food Drive, students will begin to prepare for St. Baldrick’s in March and Ride for Life in the spring.