How One Woman Changed the Lives of Pets Through Pet Food Donations
Eileen Lambert's nonprofit business, Colorado Pet Pantry, is on a mission to help families and pets in need
The year was 2013, and Eileen Lambert was a volunteer dog trainer at the Dumb Friends League. She loved what she was doing but grew concerned by the number of people coming in to relinquish their pets.
“These weren’t cases of the pet being a bad fit,” Lambert says. “These were people very sad to be in a position where they had no other choice but to give up a beloved dog or cat. They just didn’t have the money for pet food or supplies, veterinary care or rent. I sat with that for a while and realized while I couldn’t fix the housing crisis or perform veterinary care, I did have pet food in my cabinets—stuff my dogs didn’t like or couldn’t eat—that I could give to someone who needed it.”
And so began the Colorado Pet Pantry.
“Originally it was just me,” Lambert says. “But then I started asking friends, neighbors and local retailers if they could donate. I just wanted to help the people in the north Denver community where I lived at the time; I never imagined that Colorado Pet Pantry would become the statewide thing that it is today.”
Ten years later, with the help of some 750 volunteers and a handful of paid employees, Colorado Pet Pantry conducts monthly pet food giveaways at 102 locations throughout Colorado. “We mostly partner with human food banks and set up in their parking lots so that people pick up their own food and then stop by with us for their pet’s food. We also partner with agencies like Volunteers of America, Meals on Wheels and Mercy Housing that distribute our pet food directly to their clients.”
In addition, Colorado Pet Pantry has an emergency assistance pro- gram that allows pet parents in dire need of one-time access to pet food outside of a regularly scheduled giveaway. Applications for the emergency relief must be filled out in advance on the Colorado Pet Pantry website, coloradopetpantry.org.
Colorado Pet Pantry’s $800,000 annual budget covers the cost of warehouse space in Englewood, storage unit rentals across the state, and the use of trucks to move the donated food to distribution points.
In the past 12 months, “We’ve distributed enough food to provide 6.9 million meals for 115,000 pets,” Lambert says, adding: “Our need now is astronomical because of inflation, rising rent and utility bills, increases in the cost of eggs and other groceries, and the end to the temporary increase in SNAP benefits that were given during the COVID pandemic. I’m glad we are able to help, but I’m concerned about how high the need is getting.”
The greatest need is for dry cat food and litter. “Since most of our clients are feeding pets they’ve had for some time, we really don’t need puppy and kitten food,” Lambert explains. Nothing goes to waste, though, as Colorado Pet Pantry donates any puppy and kitten food it receives to the 100 animal rescue organizations it works with.
Donations of food and treats can be made at over 100 veterinary clinics, pet food stores, grooming salons and doggie day care sites. A complete list can be found on the Colorado Pet Pantry website.
Over the course of her lifetime, Joanne Davidson has been a pet parent to nine dogs, all of whom were rescues. Whenever her current two visit their veterinarian, Joanne drops a bag of kibble in the Colorado Pet Pantry donation bin.