Photo of Paws Pantry packaged dog food

Paws Pantry

Paws Pantry is a program sponsored by the Pad for Paws Foundation that serves Lewis & Clark County and surrounding areas. This program repackages and delivers donated pet food to Helena Food Share and God’s Love, and to families in need.

Paws Pantry helps keep people and their companion pets together by reducing transportation and financial obstacles to ensure that clients will be able to provide nutritious meals for their beloved pets.

For most individuals, a dog or cat is more than a pet. These domestic animals are faithful companions who provide friendship, joy, and a reason for living. Studies show that animal ownership can also lower illness levels and mortality rates.

How Can You Help?

Donations of cat and dog food are vital to our program. Cash donations are greatly appreciated as they allow us to purchase varieties as needed in the most economical quantities possible. Additional needs include supplies of gallon and quart sized plastic bags. Please click to make a donation or volunteer.

Ann Waickman’s Quest to End Hunger in Helena
For People and Their Pets

If there is a single quality to capture the spirit of Ann Waickman, it’s energy. Not just the physical energy to stock shelves with much needed food at Helena Food Share, but also the imaginative energy to meet with business and civic leaders and develop innovative programs, the intellectual energy to write successful grants, and the spiritual energy to spread the hope of a hunger-free community across Helena. That energy and clarity of vision inspires everyone she meets. In large measure, it explains the great success that Helena Food Share has had in the past 9 years.

When Ann came on board as the Executive Director in September 2001, Helena Food Share was a much smaller non-profit organization. At that time it had a staff of 3 1/2 paid employees, including the executive director, and an average of 25 volunteers to manage five programs. In those days, Helena Food Share distributed boxes of food once a month to 350 households. In 8 short years, that number has grown geometrically. Now Helena Food Share has an average of 3000 visits to the warehouse each month, and members of 1200 households per month are able to shop there. All told, Helena Food Share distributes over 1,000,000 pounds of food each year! Equally astonishing is that it does so with only 7 paid workers who run thirteen different programs managed by army of over 800 volunteers!

Ann Waickman with Pad for Paws volunteers (left to right) Nicole Albertson, Debbe Pistoria, and Debbie Pascool

As one talks with Ann, it’s obvious that she is very well informed about the grim realities that many Helenans face—seniors suffering from living on fixed incomes that have drastically shrunk with rising living costs, the working poor and single parents struggling to keep body and soul together on minimum-wage jobs, the unemployed, the homeless. But what’s really impressive is her determination to meet these people’s needs for food. In developing and sustaining programs as diverse as Monthly and Daily Grocery programs, Senior Commodities, Thanksgiving and Christmas Food Boxes, and Food Stamp Outreach, she demonstrates a practical spirit of charity that makes huge differences in the daily quality of people’s lives.

The power of Helena Food Share comes not only from the talent, dedication, and ingenuity of its staff and volunteers, but also from the wonderful generosity of Helenans and local business and community organizations. Over 50% of the food it distributes to the needy comes from local grocery stores, food drives, and personal donations. The rest comes from funding directed through local charities, such as United Way and the State Employees Charitable Giving organization. Very much a thriving, grass-roots, non-profit organization, Helena Food Shares receives less than 5% of its support from Federal monies.

Particularly exciting is Helena Food Share’s support of Pad for Paws’ work to provide food for needy dogs and cats. It was pure chance that led Helena Food Share to distributing pet food. A little while ago WalMart approached Helena Food Share about distributing torn bags of dog food that it didn’t want to throw away. Volunteers, recognizing this great need for clients who also had a dog or cat that wasn’t getting fed, started bagging up pet food. Contacting Pad for Paws volunteer Debbe Pistoria, Helena Food Share suggested a partnership that would meet both organizations' missions. This new initiative has proved to be very successful. It enables challenged families to meet their pets’ food needs without draining resources from meeting their own human needs. As Ann has noted, people now often ask about food for their pets before they inquire about food for themselves. Pad for Paws is grateful to help fulfill this great need.

All in all, the partnership between Helena Food Share and Pad for Paws is helping both to make a huge difference in the lives of countless families and their pets in Helena and surroundings areas. Thus, Pad for Paws would like to extend a very warm thanks to Ann Waickman, her staff, and volunteers for their cooperative spirit and energy to make the lives of hungry people and their animals a great deal better.