Lynn Molnar joins us today from Thankful Paws, a pet food bank located in Baltimore Maryland who has been helping people in need for 7 years. Learn about the inspiration behind the start of this wonderful organization, the challenges as well as some tips on how you can help your local community.
Check out their website to see how you can help!
Welcome to the Professionals and Animal Rescue podcast, where a goal is to introduce you two amazing people helping animals and share how you can get involved with animal rescue. This podcast is probably sponsored by do bert dot com. Do Bert is a free website designed to connect volunteers with rescues and shelters and the only site that automates rescue relay transport. Now on with our show. Thankful Paws has been actively serving the Baltimore in Harford counties in Maryland since 2011. Lynn Milner, the president and founder, started the organization to serve low income elderly people were having to make tough decisions between feeding their pet or having food of their own. Studies have shown that owning a pet could be physically and mentally beneficial for people of all ages. And thankful Paws is dedicated to helping the elderly keep their pets during difficult times by providing food, supplies and resources. To date, thankful paws is distributed over 72 tons of pet food and supplies to those in need. Hey, Lynn, Thanks for coming on the show today. Uh, thanks for having me today. We’re very honored. Could be here with you. Well, thank you So tell us a little bit about you in In in your background. Super Well, I am originally from New Jersey, the beautiful Garden State, and I moved to Maryland for school many years ago, and I’ve been working before. I started thankful Paws. I was working downtown at the Art University, Micah Maryland Institute College of Art. And the whole reason that I kind of fell into Thankful Paws was, um it was about 8 4009 and the economy started to go, you know, little Self and one of the cleaning ladies came up to me because Micah’s a pet friendly place. So I was able to dog there. So, you know, when there’s a dog in the office, people are more friendly to their chatty. They talk, you get to know people better and if you know, relieve stress and everything like that. Sure. So one day one of the cleaning ladies came in and she asked me if I wanted a cat. And I said, Oh, I already have a cat, you know? And then, you know, we started talking about why, and she said that one of the other cleaning ladies was living in her car with her cat and some of it, and she knew that she couldn’t keep the cat in the car during the summer, and I didn’t know what to do. At that point. I was like, kind of dumbfounded, and I was like, Wow, she’s not asking help for herself. She’s asking for help for her cat. She’ll continue to sleep in the car, but she doesn’t want her cat to be hurt, you know? And that just really just stuck with me. And two years later, I I still couldn’t put it down, and I just started to realize like, Yeah, people really love their animals more than they love themselves. I mean, I know I feed my dogs better than I eat myself. Think it means they’re getting the best of the best And I’m, you know, a piece of pizza here and there. So I just thought, you know, everybody needs to eat. And, you know, I had just graduated college, and I just I just wanted to do something and I landed on the idea of a pet food bank to help people so they wouldn’t have to give up their pet just because they couldn’t afford the food. And, you know, here we are seven years later, and we’re still we’re still doing it. And we’ve, you know, we’ve had a lot of bumps and rumps and stuff like that and, you know, changed and, you know, have a few bruises. Sure, sure. But But we’re still here, and we’re still growing. And, you know, we’re happy toe. Keep it moving. So I’m curious. I mean, you were working at an art institute, you said So what? What’s your background? What’s your professional backup? Did you you know, did you study art? And then you kind of made this pivot into animal rescue. I really love research. And my first job. When I got to Maryland, I was fortunate that I worked at the Attorney General’s office and I learned all that legal research and worked my way up from a receptionist to a paralegal. You know, in that in that office. And, you know, after a while I went from legal research to medical research and worked at Hopkins for many years as a research assistant, doing different things like that. And then when this opportunity for our institute toe have a department of research. I was all over because it was just like, Wow, this is great. And Michael was the first college in the country to have a whole entire, you know, Department of research. And you could bring your book and you can sing your dog. So it just seemed like a natural flow. Um, for me, um because I just love research and diving into, you know, the nuts and bolts of something. So I just I had at that point, I had only had my dog hero for about a year, and I had no idea of any resource is out there. All I knew was my dog, the veterinarian. We went Thio and I started, you know, talking to people, because when you have a dog, you’re more social. So I would go to the dog park and I would hear other people’s stories about, you know, where they got their dog. And I learned the term Katrina dog because, you know, so many dogs were coming up from, you know, Hurricane Katrina and they were being, you know, rescued and living in Maryland now. And and I was like, Wow, it just this whole subculture that I knew nothing about has existed. And here I am. I have a dog for a year now, and I’m just like, like pulling back the veil and just like, Whoa, there’s there’s literally a whole another’s culture group, a whole nother network. And I just discovered it. Yeah, it has to be amazing. All the networking and all the people out there that that love their animals, are passionate and just want to help. It’s amazing to me the compassion I’ve seen in the pet industry. It’s amazing. Yeah. No, I definitely agree. So what I find so fascinating. So then you kind of came into this really specific area, um, of a pet food bank. And then you decided to start your own. I mean, did you find resource is are there other organizations like this across the country? Um, excuse me at the time, I did do a Google search for other pet food. Thanks. And the nearest one at that time, Waas in North Carolina. I believe there was more out west on the West Coast, but there was nothing in the Northeast mid Atlantic area where I was that came upon a Google search. Then there might have been somebody out there, but when I did my Google search, there was nothing. Stars like Ah ha. Okay, this is good. There’s a need for sure at, um, I don’t know. I’m kind of I don’t know if you want to call it naive, crazy or stupid, You know, I just said, Well, let’s just go on, do it and try. And so, you know, I’ve got my paperwork together and did it and, you know, hung out my shingle, and I thought, you know, floodgates, You know, I signed up to do the Pet Expo here at our county fairgrounds the first year. And I thought our you know, there’s, like, 10,000 people that come in and, you know, 1% of that 10,000 becomes a sponsor will be set, and you know, we’ll be able to do this. And you know what? What? What? E never less. According to Flynn. Yeah, you’re what? Why? What? Food bank for pet. I mean, and it was just Yeah, nobody. Yeah, it was. But hey, keep going. And but, you know, I got a lot of food donated. That’s good. It’s gonna ask you. I mean, where were to muster the food come from? Well, in the beginning, most of the food came directly from pet food stores. They have to unload it when it’s unsalable. So they get a tax write off if they donate it to a charity. So they would, you know, call us up and say, Hey, we’ve got, you know, x amount of bags and cans and come and pick it up. And we would we would travel all over. I mean, I would go about an hour, hour and 1/2. One way to pick up food because the need was so great. I was getting calls all the time from people who needed food. And in the beginning, we were just helping the general public. We hadn’t focused on the elderly it yet, so we were getting a lot more phone calls from people. Um, you know who ho on unemployment or food stamps or stuff? Stuff like that. So every bit of food that was coming in was going out women weeks, but, you know, But now things have slowed down a little bit. Um, but we’re still still serving. Yeah. You know, one of the interesting things I found just I’m talking with you and learning about this is that it’s kind like there’s people, food, banks And then there’s pet food banks, and sometimes the people. Food banks can have pet food, and sometimes it can, yes, and sometimes it’s It’s an education thing again. I feel like that’s all I say anymore. It’s it’s education education because some some pet food, some people, food banks, they received money from the government. And if you receive money from the government, you’re under more scrutiny. And having pet food bank, they feel, will jeopardize their federal funding. So they stay away from it because pet Food bank, because pet food has to be stored differently and separately from human food. And um, so that creates more work for them and then some other human food thanks that I talked to. They say that they don’t wanna have pet food because some of their clients would get confused and maybe eat the dog food, um, thinking that it was food or take a bag of dog food instead of a bag of cereal, thinking that they can get more nutrition from the from the dog food. So it’s an education thing, and it’s an awareness thing. And I don’t see why we can’t work together with more human food banks and just teach and be there and have you know someone on site when they do a distribution. Just say, OK, this is dog food. This is, you know, things like that. It’s the education thing. Yeah. No, it definitely sounds like it. Is it primarily dog food? Cat food? I mean, give us an idea. It is. It’s primarily dog and cat food, because those are the two biggest. You know, pet companions in households in the country occasionally will get, you know, some other foods donated, but not so much, but it’s mostly dog and cat. Okay? And then now things have progressed. Your 78 years later into this. I mean, is there more resource is or there Mork connected pet food banks across the country. There are more pet food banks across the country now. Yes, and other, um, like humane societies and A S, P, C. A s and community, you know, animal controls and rescues. They now have pet food banks as part of their service is that they offer to the public. So that’s another resource that, um, that didn’t exist 78 years ago. So that’s a positive thing that pet food banks are starting to become a little bit more mainstream. But it’s still not common enough for people to really understand the value and the need for it and why we need pet food banks. Why our pets are so important. Yeah, no, it’s a really good point, and I’m just kind of curious. I mean, it sounds like most of the donations come locally as supposed to, you know, you figure there’s dozens, if not hundreds of pet food manufacturers across the country that they must have some, you know, product that they can’t sell regularly as well. They might, yes, but most of our donations do come locally, and it’s just from the local pet pet food stores or people. Do you know if you drive at work or school and, um, you know, just like they do around Thanksgiving for canned goods and turkeys, they do a pet food drive, so that’s where most of our food comes from. So now I know. I mean, you’ve mentioned education a couple of times it sounds like you’ve you’ve found that you need to focus a little bit more nanny. She tell us about how you’re focusing on the elderly, they’re special population. I mean, there we should always be responsible and mindful of our elders. We’re all gonna be old one day, and we all need help. Um, and I just think, I mean, for a lack of saying it better. I mean, you know, pay it forward, but it’s it’s just doing the right thing now. And if you have the opportunity to help help someone in need and you know you don’t have to go out and start a food bank. But if you have an elderly neighbor and you know that they have a cat or a dog, just leave a bag of dog food or kitty litter on their porch and just say, Hey, from your neighbor. I mean, it’s only, you know, 10 $15 out of your pocket, but it means everything to them to say that money. I was just talking to one of our clients who lives in a low income elderly housing facility, and he said that because of us, he’s able to save on average about $22 a month. And he even said $22 a month isn’t a lot to most people. I mean, that’s like, you know, a week at Starbucks. It meant the difference between keeping his little dog or not, and being able to take care of, you know, this little animal, this little heartbeat in his home that was his only companion and his best friend and the sense of empowerment and responsibility that comes when you’re taking care of another pet. It’s not even something that all the research that I’ve done it can’t even quantify yet, because how do you measure love? How do you measure responsibility? How do you measure self satisfaction that you’re able to provide for someone? I mean, that’s those air human, basic human needs that we all need to feel. Science knows that, but we still don’t know how to quantify it. But through having a pet and being able to take care of that pet, you’re doing it so you’re happier. You’re healthier, you’re going to the doctor. Let’s just the positive for the pet and a positive for the person. Yeah, I know it’s a really good point. And the studies have shown the animal human bond. And, like you said, it just you lead a happier life and you can imagine for elderly people that are on a fixed income, maybe you’re not as mobile, not able to get out and socialize as much. How important having that relationship with the pet is absolutely. There was a study down a TTE George Mason University a couple years ago, and they said that, um, having pet ownership saved the economy. Almost $12 billion pet owners went to the doctor’s less. They were on less prescriptions. There was less obesity. There was less blood pressure issues. Society is starting to really see the value of a pet, and I think right now is the best time to get involved in pet care. Be a champion for those that don’t have a voice. And I know we all see the abused animals and things like that, and that’s, you know, one part of animal rescue. But thankful Paws is also often dubbed the rescue before the rescue because we’re getting that pet in that home, that pet will never have to go through the trauma of having to be rescued if we can just provide $22 a month, you know, for dog food and supplies. I mean, it’s a very small gesture, but it has huge implications. Yeah, no, I I look forward to the day when you’re filling out your health care thing and it’s a smoker, nonsmoker, pet owner Get a lower rate because pets are such an important part of our lives. And I think you stated it very nicely that you’re a preventative measure and this isn’t need. And, you know, when you look at the numbers, a lot of the owner surrenders and happen, and shelters are because they can no longer afford to care for their animals. And, you know, whether it be pet food or veterinary care. You know, there’s a lot of reasons that people have to unfortunately surrender their animals. And it sounds like you’re really focused on trying to help eliminate those absolutely, absolutely. And one thing to that, I’ve learned just by having a pet food bank is learning about pet nutrition. You know, we’re all taught in the human world to read your labels, but I don’t know if you’ve tried to read a pet food label recently, but it’s a little convoluted is it’s very like What? What does that mean? So I’m actually taking some classes to try to figure out what that all means, because I feel as a you know, the owner of a pet food Think it’s my responsibility to help. You know, people understand what they’re really feeding their dogs and their cats. And, you know, everybody knows, you know, good nutrition now will save thousands of dollars in health care, you know, for your dog or your cat later on down the line. I think it’s just another part of I love how you said that, you know, thankful pauses, a preventative measure. And I think getting into pet nutrition and teaching our clients and the general public just about good pet nutrition is another preventative measure for the health of your pets. The future always break. Um, well, we want to keep keep it going. Um, we want to keep doing education. I’m trying to branch out and get speaking engagements. You know, in my community or anywhere I’m just to talk about you know, why we need pet food banks and the nutrition and different things like that. Our focus right now is just helping people understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it and see if anybody wants to come along and join us, because it’s gonna you know, it takes time, and nothing happens overnight, but to be a part of something that, you know, you can leave a legacy of, You know, you helped start something, and you helped change somebody’s mind. I mean, that’s that’s a huge, huge gift to be able to say, Yeah, you know, this person used to not believe one way, but now, you know, because of something I said they changed their mind and their, you know, a pet advocate. Now, you know, one person at a time kind of thing. Yeah. So for somebody listening to this that wants to get involved and help, where would you recommend they start? I would, um Well, they can always call me, and I’m happy to talk with anybody and give them idea. I would check with their local, um, humane societies or county animal control, or even go to the police station. And because the police see a lot, you know, unfortunately, they see a lot of the rough stuff, but they might have some ideas, too. And just say, Hey, I could maybe get you know, some pet food donated from, you know, such and such pet food store. Where do you think it would be best served in the community And just try the partner with, you know, an existing rescue group or go to a local human food bank? And you know, if they do their distributions, you know, the third Thursday of every week, you know, just try to be there with, you know, some dog and cat food and just say, Hey, do you have a dog or cat? And here’s some food and just give it out. Give it out that way and just just watch arms with someone. Um, if you want to start your own pet food bank, that’s great. And I applaud that, but you know you can. There’s multiple ways to help. You know. Those are really good suggestions, Lynn and I think as you said it, Sze, don’t don’t be shy, you can. There’s lots of different things that you can do in lots of different resource is you can try to get involved in it. It starts by just talking, right, talking about shelter and police department and pet food banks because there’s definitely need out there. Yep, yep. And even just talking Thio your pet store and just saying, Hey, well, what do you do with the food that you can’t sell to? Some of them? You know, some manufacturers do buy it back, but some some of the pet food stores, they throw it out, which is, you know, so sad to see, you know, great quality food in the dumpster. It’s relationship building and talking. And, you know, even if you’re only able to give out, you know, three bags a month, that’s three pets that you’ve helped in the people that you’ve helped transform their lives, too. I mean, I could tell you stories about, you know, that is the people I’ve met along the way who are so thankful for food for their pets. It’s amazing. People are so appreciative. And when you care about what they care about your bonded forever, that’s your your commonality. I mean, you know, I don’t have to be homeless or elderly or disabled toe. Understand why that person loves their pet I love my pet the same. And that’s the commonality that we all have. And that’s what we we build on. Yep. Absolutely. Well, thank you. Lend so much for coming on the program today and sharing used or anything else that you wanted to mention before we wrap things up. No, I think you’re You’re awesome. You’re doing a great job with your work, and I I encourage you to keep going too. Well, thank you. Then we really appreciate you coming on the program today. Thank you. Thanks for tuning into today’s podcast. If you’re not already a member, joined the air p A. To take advantage of all the resources we have to offer. And don’t forget to sign up with do bert dot com. It’s free and helps automate the most difficult tasks in animal rescue.