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Kate Quinn serves pets with food pantry and photography

Food destined for 2nd Hand Ranch, to feed wild animals being rehabilitated and rescued dogs awaiting adoption, fills the back of this van.
thanks to Kate Quinn, KMS Photography

Over the past two weeks I've seen a lot of Kate Quinn in her role as a helper of pets in need. On Saturday, March 9, 2013, I had the privilege of helping her out at a distribution day for the Wet Nose Pet Food Pantry that she runs in Downers Grove. This past Sunday, March 17, I saw her again in her role as photographer at the spring photo with pets fundraiser at the Mysterious and Reassuring consignment shop in Franklin Park.

When families fall on hard times, they often cannot get help for the pets they adopted into their families in better days. To prevent families from suffering the added loss of needing to surrender animals they can no longer feed at a time when the love and companionship of those pets may be essential, Kate founded Wet Nose a little over a year ago. According to her records from March 9, 5 new families and 2 returning ones got much-needed supplies for the family cats and dogs that day. Over the course of a couple of hours, she and her volunteer helpers gave out 18 cans of dog food, 22 cans of cat food, 60 lbs of clay litter, 170 lbs of dry dog food, and 33 lbs of dry cat food.

After the food and litter distribution, Kate asked us to help her organize the storage area—as she said, to minimize the risk of avalanche when the doors are opened, a bag added to a stack or taken out. Once the dog food corner was cleared, we swept the area before proceeding. (Kate is quite proud of never having had any bug or rodent vermin in her storage space.) In amazingly few minutes, many additional bags of dog food got neatly stacked in tha section, organized so workers can easily see what kind of food each bag contains. Excess cat kibble got restacked in part of the section usually reserved for cat litter.

That night, Kate posted on the Wet Nose Pet Food Pantry Facebook page, “A BIG thank you to my helpers today: Susan N C Price, Sandy Kelp, Marcia Mrazek, and Joe Magiera.” I’m honored to have been part of the team.

Kate also donates her time and photographic talent at various pet-related fundraising photo-with-your-pet events, such as the one held Sunday afternoon, March 17, at the one-year anniversary of the Mysterious & Reassuring shop’s grand opening in Franklin Park. As was the case for the first event a year ago, all proceeds from this photo fundraiser help the pet food pantry pay storage rental costs and buy needed supplies, whether food or cat litter. This year, the spring photo event offered participants the option of including a 6-ft white bunny in pet photos, as in this photo of Kate’s god-pig Georgia with the bunny.

Wet Nose Pet Food Pantry concentrates on serving pets living within 20-30 miles of Downers Grove because recipients need to be able to get to the pantry on distribution days. Kate has contacted veterinarians, human food pantries and pet rescue organizations in her efforts to let people know that this resource exists. She welcomes help to get the word out more widely. The pantry’s website has information on the who, what, when, where, why and how of the pantry.

For families or individuals in need, the site includes a downloadable application form and lists the kinds of supporting documentation required, similar to the kinds of documents human food pantries use to determine need. Kate hates to turn anyone away, but she also feels a responsibility to use donated food and funds responsibly. Sadly, a few people do try to take advantage of charities such as this.

The pantry used to be open twice a month, but low turnout at each of the days over a number of months has led Kate to consolidate her effort into a single Saturday per month. The pantry gives out enough food to keep each pet fed for the whole month, so the main problem with the new once-monthly pickup schedule is users having only one target time to pick up food.

You may wonder, if the pantry is seeing a low turnout of families needing help with feeding their pets, what happens to the unused food? Fear not, nothing is wasted. Pet food getting near or past its sell-by date goes to foster-based rescues, helping keep food costs down for the selfless families taking in dogs or cats in need of shelter. And, because only rarely do families with infant animals need help, Kate takes donated kitten and puppy food to places like the Willowbrook Wildlife Center or the 2nd Hand Ranch and Rescue, where wild animals being rehabilitated (such as young raccoons) can eat that food.

The next food distribution date at the Wet Nose pantry is April 6. You can check the website for future dates and the pantry's Downers Grove location.

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