When community needs arise and we see people in dire straits, we may think, “If only I had the time, the money, the space and the expertise to take on all of that burden and make a difference.” Many people will donate, but few throw themselves wholeheartedly into filling those needs while seeking to uncover more.
One such person is Ted Pankiewicz, co-founder of For the Love of Paws. His daughter-in-law Jess and her husband, Ted Jr., had planned to establish a nonprofit to help pets and people, but she passed away suddenly of a rare immune disorder called Devic’s disease early in 2013. “I discussed Jess’ intentions with my wife and son. I reminded them that I’ve failed at retiring twice,” says Pankiewicz, a former K-9 officer from New Jersey.
They started in their garage with the goal of keeping Jess’ dream alive. Just six short years later, the venture has outgrown its headquarters twice. For the Love of Paws now distributes, free of charge, more than 10,000 pounds of pet food per month to 18 locations in Indian River and Brevard counties and to the Senior Resource Association for its Meals on Wheels program.
“It was volunteers who first noticed clients giving their food away to their pets, deciding they would rather go hungry than let their pets suffer,” says Karen Deigl, president and CEO of SRA. “All of our clients are in a crisis situation, COVID or not,” she notes.