by Lorie Lewis Ham
During the holiday season our thoughts seem to go more to the homeless and those in need, but do we ever give a thought to their pets? Halo Cafe does. They are a 501(c)(3) non-profit pet retention program that exists to serve low-income, elderly and homeless community members by providing pet food when times get tight. We took some time to chat with founder and president of Halo Cafe, Jennifer Quinn-Yovino.
KRL: How and why did Halo Cafe come to be?
Jennifer: My husband and I used to volunteer with the Valley Animal Center and I saw some folks needing to surrender their animals due to the fact that they couldn’t afford to care for them. Then I learned that public assistance didn’t always cover pet food. That information combined with the animal control crisis we have in Fresno, was the reason Halo Cafe was born. I researched to see if we already had a pet food pantry in our community… but we didn’t. We knew it was up to us and the thought of there being a loving family out there that wants to keep their pet and the only thing standing in their way is a bag of food, well… that’s what drives us. It is our goal to reduce the owner surrenders that are adding to the already overcrowded shelters and to save the lives of these loyal companions by keeping them where they belong – at HOME.
KRL: When did Halo Cafe come to be?
Jennifer: In October of 2011.
KRL: Do you only help those in Fresno?
Jennifer: Any person that can travel to the pantry is welcome to come. We have had folks from Madera, the foothills and Lemoore visit on occasion.
KRL: Exactly what all do you do?
Jennifer: We have regular monthly food distributions (usually the 2nd and 4th Monday eve of each month) for those in need of our service. Updated pantry schedule and location can be heard by calling 559-HALO-717. We do ask that clients meet some eligibility requirements: Low-income (show pay stub, EBT statement, SSI disability, Medicare etc…), show photo ID and provide spay / neuter / vaccination certificates or be actively working to complete this for each of their pets. We also offer information on low cost resources for these services.
KRL: How do you hear about those in need of your help?
Jennifer: Anyone in need is welcome to just show up at the pantry. No appointment required. We never deny food on the first visit unless we encounter a breeder. We advertise our service through organizations such as Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army etc… where people are already going to receive assistance.
KRL: What type of events do you do to both fundraise and reach out to those in need?
Jennifer: We hold two fundraisers annually. One in the spring and one in the fall with smaller fundraising efforts (social media, yard sales etc…) in between. We also work closely with Westside Rescue to promote their “No Way Stray” low cost clinics to reach out to more folks in need.
KRL: Is everyone who works with Halo Cafe Volunteer?
Jennifer: Yes. We have no paid staff. 🙂
KRL: How many people are involved with what you do?
Jennifer: The answer to that is complicated. If you come to a distribution, you’ll see between 7 and 15 people helping to get food into the hands of those who need it. We also have a group if 15-20 angels in our “Wings on Wheels” group that make emergency deliveries and help look out for the homeless population. Then there are a handful of drivers that help us transport the purchased and donated food and about 1,700 + Facebook friends that support us with their kind words.
KRL: How many animals do you think you have helped?
Jennifer: Thousands. We help approximately 250-500 at any given distribution and it’s a different set of families each time. So… thousands. 🙂
KRL: How can people help with what you do?
Jennifer: GREAT QUESTION!! The fastest way to a full tummy is via the PayPal button on our website at www.halocafe.org. We can feed a family pet for an entire month with just a $5 donation. We also welcome donations of food (any brand, any size, factory sealed.) The drop off location is at the Valley Animal Center in our bin inside the main lobby seven days a week. Items of warmth (beds, blankets, sweaters) and utility (leashes, collars, litter trays) are also welcome. Our clients have so little and they are grateful for anything we can provide. New or used… we take it all!
KRL: Do you see a greater need around the holidays? And winter?
Jennifer: For items of warmth, yes. As for food, the need is great year-round. We have never had to turn anyone away but the need continues to grow and it is beginning to outweigh the supply. If our community wants to continue to have a pantry and help these families, we are going to need their help.
KRL: Do you only help with dogs and cats?
Jennifer: Primarily, yes. We get the occasional bag of Rat and Guinea Pig food but it’s rare and the demand for such items is not as great.
KRL: Anything else you would like to add?
Jennifer: It is bittersweet when we see the line getting longer and the faces of the families and pets in need. It’s bitter because we know they are struggling but it’s sweet because we know we can help. And by the grace of God and the help of the angels and animal lovers that abound in this community, I know we can continue to meet that need and save lives one full tummy at a time because… “TOGETHER nothing is imPAWssible”!!
Here are comments from a couple of the many people whose pets have been helped:
Sandra A. Olmos
I started following Halo Cafe’s Facebook page a few months ago, and always enjoyed their posts and beautiful stories, but never imagined my babies would be one day helped by them and featured on their Facebook page!!
As an unemployed single mother of four, trying to make ends meet, I found myself sick in bed in early October, with my benefits delayed due to the government shut down, which led to my car being repossessed, and no money to buy food for my two dogs and cat, and for the dog and cat I was a foster home to. It was Friday morning, after I had fed our cats and dogs the last of the food we had, that I decided to reach out to Halo Café by email. I knew they only had distributions on Mondays, but I did not know where else to turn!! Later on that day, in the afternoon, I got an encouraging reply from Jennifer at Halo Café, giving me a ray of hope. She said that although their distribution had just happened that past Monday, she would try her best to find an “angel” close to where I lived to see if they could help out with some food. That night, I went to bed praying for a miracle.
Early next day, I was awakened by an excited 13-year-old holding bags of kitty and puppy food that had been dropped off and left at our porch!! We were in tears, and my children were all thanking God for our “Halo Café Angel.” I was amazed that someone had gone out of their way to help someone’s pets, and were humble enough to remain anonymous. I am forever grateful and indebted to my friends at Halo Café, and I pledged to help financially and to become an Angel to others as soon as my financial situation turns around. We are blessed by organizations such as these.
I lost my job and are family was fighting to make it. I started searching the internet for any help feeding my fur babies because I had barely enough money to feed my children .I found Halo and they were amazing, they even went out of their way and brought food to my home. Halo is just as their name says, angels, to the ones in need myself and many others thank you for all you have done.
You can find more animal rescue, therapy animal, and other pet related articles in our pet section.