We’ll start with the man with the big heart.
Tom Wargo grew up in the outskirts of Pittsburgh before moving to Georgia in 1984. He worked in construction and while working on several different job sites Tom began to notice how the economy had affected many families.
“I saw people that weren’t eating what they should or not eating at all,” Tom recalled.
Then came the start of the food bank.
In 1997, Tom founded the SOS – Save Our Souls – Club. The club helped anyone in need: seniors, adults, children, and pets. Working strictly on donated items and food, Tom would load up his pick-up truck and deliver the goods.
“I never had a lot of money growing up,” Tom said. “I just wanted to help people out.”
When the food dollar gets stretched thin the family pet is often left out in the cold, literally and figuratively. According to the ASPCA, half of the cats and dogs in shelters are turned in by their owners. And food stamps don’t allow for the purchase of pet food. The SOS Club evolved into the countries first pet food bank. It’s philosophy was simple: families in need would not have to worry about feeding their pets, thus, they would be able to keep their pets as opposed to having the animal go hungry or being brought to a shelter.
Here’s where the duck name comes in.
Around 2001, at one particular job site Tom was working at, a skinny, scraggly dog, that appeared to be a mix between a Jack Russell and a Miniature Pincher, showed up. The runt of the litter, he ended up on the streets, taking shelter under a car and scrounging for food.
Each day that Tom went to the work site, the dog would show up to greet him. The fact that Tom often tossed the dog some food didn’t hurt in reinforcing the dogs behavior.
Then came the day when the job was done and it time to move on. Tom loaded up his truck and started down the street. He stopped the truck and called for the dog. The dog didn’t need to be called twice. He came running, jumped into the cab, and the pair took off down the road. Tom’s son, Steven, named the dog Daffy. Tom doesn’t know how Steven came up with the name but my guess is Steven is a cartoon fan.
By 2008, the pet food bank had outgrown Tom’s pick-up truck. He purchased a warehouse in Lawrenceville to store food and use as a distribution site. Daffy’s Pet Soup Kitchen was formed.
“We named the program after him (Daffy) because he’s the type of dog that wouldn’t make it without a program like ours,” Tom said.
Daffy was diabetic and required special food and two insulin shots a day. He passed away two years ago.
Daffy’s Pet Soup Kitchen operates on a quid pro quo basis. In order to get free food pet owners must agree to have their pets spayed or neutered and get their annual rabies shots (Daffy’s works with veterinarians that can help with these procedures). Owners are also required to do five hours of community service work a month either as a volunteer at Daffy’s or a charity of the owners choice.
Last year, Daffy’s gave out about 800,000 pounds of pet food. Tom said while pet food companies are quick to donate to animal shelters the same can’t be said about pet food banks. To keep supply meeting demand, PetCo has setup collection bins in all of its stores, and many veterinarians across metro Atlanta accept donations on behalf of Daffy’s. Donations are also welcome at the warehouse at 134 South Clayton Street in Lawrenceville.
Daffy’s recently received national recognition when the Barefoot Wine Company selected the pet soup kitchen as one of its “Soles of the Year.” Daffy’s was one of seven non-profit organizations honored by the winery.
“We just want to keep families and their pets together,” Tom said.
For more information on Daffy’s Pet Soup Kitchen visit its website at www.daffyspetsoupkitchen.info.
Earl Gray is a freelance writer. Send comments/suggestions to email@example.com