Program helps seniors and pets stay together

Senator Andy Dinniman and members of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation deliver pet food to seniors at the Phoenixville Senior Center. Pictured (from left to right) Dr. Tom Garg of Hope Veterinary Specialists and the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation; Sharon Kelly of Phoenixville, Bill Sadler of Phoenixville, Dr. Malcolm Kram, Chair of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation Board of Trustees; Senator Dinniman with Jaegger, Helen Hurst of Phoenixville, and Kate Wallace of Phoenixville. Kelly, Sadler, Hurst and Wallace all received food for their dogs and cats through Henry’s Helping Paws Fund.
Senator Andy Dinniman and members of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation deliver pet food to seniors at the Phoenixville Senior Center. Pictured (from left to right) Dr. Tom Garg of Hope Veterinary Specialists and the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation; Sharon Kelly of Phoenixville, Bill Sadler of Phoenixville, Dr. Malcolm Kram, Chair of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation Board of Trustees; Senator Dinniman with Jaegger, Helen Hurst of Phoenixville, and Kate Wallace of Phoenixville. Kelly, Sadler, Hurst and Wallace all received food for their dogs and cats through Henry’s Helping Paws Fund. Submitted photo

PHOENIXVILLE >> Henry’s Helping Paws Fund is now making it easier for seniors to stay together with their pets.

State Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-19th Dist., was joined by his trusty poodle, Jagger, and representatives from the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation to make the first delivery of dog and cat food to the Phoenixville Senior Center as part of the Henry’s Helping Paws Fund program.

“This is our early Christmas present to senior citizens in need who are struggling to afford food and pet care items for their beloved cats and dogs,” Dinniman said. “It’s the season of giving and a celebration of the importance of love and companionship. And we couldn’t think of a better time to launch this latest initiative.”

About a half-dozen senior citizens from the Phoenixville Senior Center will receive pet food and care items from Henry’s Helping Paws Fund, which was launched in conjunction with Meals on Wheels of Chester County last year. Currently, the program — named for Henry, the Dinniman family’s 9-year-old standard poodle who died in December 2014 and was well-known throughout the Chester County region — delivers pet food to about 30 senior citizens who are homebound or lack transportation.

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“Sen. Dinniman has always been very active in promoting causes for animals. When Henry died this was a way to memorialize him and to help our seniors keep their pets in the process,” said Dr. Tom Garg of Hope Veterinary Specialists and the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation.

The delivery to the Phoenixville Senior Center marked the latest expansion of the program, which organizers and supporters plan to grow to include pro bono veterinary care and house calls to those who can’t afford or access medical services for their pets.

“I think it’s a wonderful, wonderful idea,” said Irene Hartman, a Phoenixville senior citizen who has a dog, Archer, and a ferret named Juan.

Edie Hartman, Executive Director of the Phoenixville Senior Center, said the program would go a long way in assisting seniors, many of whom are on fixed incomes, with the financial expense of feeding and caring for a pet.

“Sen. Dinniman has been such a part of our center and we thank him for this opportunity,” Hartman said. “Our seniors tell us every day just how much their pets mean to them.”

Dinniman said he got the idea for a mobile food pantry when he heard about senior citizens, and disabled residents on low or fixed incomes who are homebound and struggle to afford adequate food, pet care items and veterinary medical services for their pets.

“Some of these seniors were taking their meals from Meals on Wheels and splitting the food with their dogs or cats. Now, both the people and their pets can eat,” Dinniman said. “And most importantly, we’re keeping people and their pets together in their homes. Not only does it have therapeutic value for our seniors but, it also takes the burden off rescue organizations that are overwhelmed with surrendered animals.”

Pet food and care items for Henry’s Helping Paws Fund are funded by private and corporate donors through the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation (the charitable arm of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association), while Meals on Wheels will make the actual deliveries. In addition, representatives from local senior centers, senior housing facilities, and other nonprofits are identifying homebound pet owners in need.

“We’re just glad to help and be part of an initiative that is already taking off and which we expect to be replicated elsewhere,” Dr. Malcolm Kram, Chair of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation Board of Trustees.

To learn more about Henry’s Helping Paws Fund, visit www.pavetfoundation.org.