Jake Kommer, Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons
) Rescue Director and Volunteer Coordinator, is leading the COVID-19 pandemic created demand for pet food assistance from ARF, who is offering free pet food through a monthly drive-through pet food pantry at the ARF Adoption Center in East Hampton. Their accomplishments to date are impressive. Kommer reported that ARF has collected and distributed a total "well over 14,000 lbs. of wet and dry dog and cat food for the vast pet community in need and local food pantries." He said, "Food brings people together and so do pets, so when we realized there was a need in the community, we knew it was our job to step up and help our friends and neighbors."
Kommer, when asked how he would grade the first year of the ARF Pet Food Pantry, said, "It has been a real learning experience for all of us. There have been so many different things to overcome, such as learning how to do a pet food pantry and getting the word out there. I think we have done a fantastic job so far. I'd like to do a big thank you to our volunteers, Mr. Paul Hecht, Shari Thompson and lastly Alex McCue."
Part of the success of the pantry is the now created flow of goods, both brought to the pantry by donors and taken by those in need. On this Kommer said, "At our last event we had a total of 46 cars take part. Usually, it is fairy equal as to dropping off and picking up. But this last event was our first event that we had more people coming to pick up then drop off. I believe we are reaching 20 to 30 families in need with each event."
When asked what he meant by "event," Kommer explained, "It's a monthly event. It's changed a bit since we initially started. We have just come around to a year, our first event was April 25, 2020. At that point everything was in flux due to the pandemic. It was our first pet food pantry. We had just put the word out, asked people to come on down with any spare pet food they had, we then filled up a van, and afterwards we contacted the local food pantries and distributed it that way. Our next event was in July of 2020. The April event had absolutely avalanched us with pet food, we were distributing for months afterwards. Once we finally ran out in July, we decided to set up monthly events."
He continued, "Back then we had two distinct events. A drop off date and then the next weekend would be a pickup date. At that point it was bi-weekly. We switched over in November 2020 to on the same day. We now have our one event per month, any additional food we have left over we make sure that the people who aren't able to attend our event are still able to take advantage of the resource that we have here. So, any additional food is divvied up and delivered to the local food pantries including, Heart of the Hamptons
in Southampton, The East Hampton Food Pantry
, Montauk and Sag Harbor."
Kommer said ARF concluded that having a combined monthly event made it more probable to reach more people. It was better for the morale of all those involved and canceled perhaps any feeling of "stigma" for those in need.
"The most important thing to me was when we started to see familiar faces on both sides," he noted. "The donating and the picking up, just because it felt like these people realized that we could be a consistent source of food, be able to provide the surety and the stability of food in a time where so many people are dealing with a tough situation."
Kommer noted that ARF accepts donations of wet or dry dog or cat food, as long as it is closed. They cannot take opened food. He said they tend to see more dog food come in, but they actually need more cat food because many folks take care of cat colonies, beside their own personal cats. ARF has remained open throughout the pandemic, and has started welcoming the public back for scheduled adoption appointments, as well as training classes for the animals.
"The outpouring of generosity has been absolutely heartwarming and really has given us a lot of hope in a time when hope has been hard to come by," Kommer concluded.
Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons is located at 124 Daniels Hole Road in East Hampton. For more information, visit arfhamptons.org.