Many Georgians struggle to pay their bills, but a metro-Atlanta man is working to help those people by helping their pets.
Tom Wargo runs Daffy's Pet Soup Kitchen, a nonprofit based in Lawrenceville. Daffy's supplies free pet food, helping dogs and cats stay with their owners during hard times.
"The rescues and pounds are full of the sad animals in the crates that you see and are heartbreaking, but why not keep those animals in their homes," asked Wargo.
He said that keeps families happier and shelters from becoming overcrowded.
Wargo started the soup kitchen more than a decade ago, by accident. As a contractor, he said he'd often come across struggling homeowners too poor to even feed their pets, so he started bringing pet food with him.
"I remember this lady called me and said, 'I have a problem. Will you come look at my roof?' I spent hours up on this lady's roof and couldn't find anything wrong, and then when I was leaving, she said, ‘Do you by any chance have any dog food in your car?,'" said Wargo, laughing. "People got to know us more as the dog good guy than the remodeling guy."
Realizing the tremendous need, Wargo began handing out food from the back of his truck in parking lots and eventually secured Daffy's permanent home, a warehouse on South Clayton Street in Lawrenceville.
Every Saturday dozens of people arrive to collect food for their hungry pets. It's now considered the largest pet food bank in the state. Daffy's gave away more than 800,000 pounds of dog and cat food in 2012.
Roberta Fisher is a frequent patron. She needs the food for her service dog, Ms. Penny.
"She (Penny) is my medical assistant; she is my baby, and to lose her, would be like losing a child," said Fisher.
But in 2012 Fisher nearly lost Penny. Fisher was homeless and had no way of feeding the large dog. She then heard about Daffy's.
"I'm glad we have this program, because if it wasn't, neither one of us would be here today," said Fisher fighting back tears.
In exchange for the pet food, recipients must spay/neuter their pets, have them vaccinated against rabies and perform five hours of community service.
"I only think it's fair that the individual people getting the food should be going back into the community and helping out, whether it's repairing a roof or fixing a car," said Wargo. "By helping out the animals, we're helping out the people."
Wargo's next goal is to expand Daffy's by adding portable pet soup kitchens in communities across the state, and eventually the country. He said that makes the food accessible to more people and pets.
He also said they're always in need of more volunteers, pet food and money. To find out how you can help, or if you need help, visit Daffy's website.
Copyright 2013 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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