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Help for Pets aids homeless, needy

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From left, Pat Parrish and Linda Sega, who help homeless and needy with pet food and supplies through their non-profit organization, Help for Pets.

Bryans Road, MD - The plight of the homeless has continued to plague communities in Charles County from La Plata to Bryans Road. Lifestyles of Southern Maryland has aided the homeless and continues to provide food, shelter and amenities to the disadvantaged, but there was a question that troubled Pat Parrish of Bryantown: What happens to pets when their owners lose their home?

That thought prompted Parrish to establish Help for Pets, a 501C3 non-profit that serves not only the homeless population of Charles County, but elderly, disabled and low-income pet owners in Southern Maryland. Parrish said her initiative got started when she visited an elderly lady living in Bryans Road.

“It was one lady who got me started,” she recalled. “She had been taking care of her grandchildren and they all went off to college. She had no transportation. She had all of these cats in her yard and couldn’t afford to feed them. She wanted someone to come and take them all away.”

Parrish, a veterinarian technician of 22 years in the local community, offered to help.

“Suppose someone brought you food for them?” she asked the woman.

“Well, that would be all right,” the woman responded. “But the problem I have is there are so many and they keep on coming.”

“Suppose someone could help to get them fixed?” Parrish offered.

“Well, that would be good,” the woman said.

Parrish then set forth seeking grant money to help her quest.

She found help through Lost Chance Animal Rescue and the Pomfret Animal Hospital, who she called, “Our very first supporters.” Petco and Wal-Mart donated cages to transport cats and dogs. Donations and aid has come from Pet Value stores in Southern Maryland and Spot Thrift Shop in St. Leonard. It is the antithesis of community effort," she said, noting that the agency has helped spay or neuter 177 dogs and cats since its inception.

Parrish, along with volunteer Linda Sega, heads up the entire operation from her home. “We don’t have a facility,” she noted. “We are 100 percent volunteer and 100 percent outreach.”

That first customer, she noted, told her neighbors and soon the organization was scrambling for funding to help what was obviously a growing need. The group recently started working in tandem with the Southern Maryland Food Bank, which distributes food to the needy on the second Thursday afternoon of each month at Shiloh Church in Bryans Road. When the organization sets up in the church parking lot, Help for Pets sets up a stand from the back of Parrish’s SUV right next door.

“If you need a dinner and come to the church and if you have a dog or cat that needs a meal, we are here,” she said.

She recalled a homeless man who contacted her agency.

“He was living in his car and he had a cat,” Parrish said. “He had run out of gas and couldn’t run the air conditioner. He called us because he was worried about his cat. I got up to La Plata as soon as I could and we fostered the kitty.”

Parrish said the Charles County Department of Health has begun asking patrons during intake if they have a pet, which has helped her head off a potential crisis several times. She has had between seven and eight volunteers during the short time the agency has been at work. They only procured their non-profit status in December, she pointed out.

The organization is always looking for donations of pet foot—especially dry cat food—and any other pet supplies from food bowls, dog houses, kennels and such, as well as donations for supplies, flea and tick medications or a medical fund to help defray veterinarian expenses.

If you can help, email helpforpetssmd@gmail or call 301-643-3049.

Contact Joseph Norris at joe.norris@thebaynet.com

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