Spay and neuter food pantry seeks support for pets

Published 8:53 am Monday, November 30, 2015

Volunteers pose with sorted buckets of food to be donated to pets in need.

Volunteers pose with sorted buckets of food to be donated to pets in need.

People aren’t the only ones gathering together to enjoy a feast this Thanksgiving, and they’re also not the only ones in need of support to make it happen.
East Tennessee Spay and Neuter’s Low Cost Food Pantry for pets feeds over 500 pets each month in Elizabethton and Roan Mountain.
Each month, volunteers get together to divvy up dog and cat food into appropriate containers for each of their four-legged clients.
The program began on Christmas Eve Day in 2011 and has since grown to distributing over 400 pounds of cat food and over 1,000 pounds of dog food monthly, all operated out of ETSN’s purple bus.
The program has restrictions to prevent people from adopting pets that they cannot afford or allowing their pets to multiply. Additionally, the household income must be below $25,000 annually, and the owner must have had the pet for one year.
“We do not serve those that adopt pets expecting us to feed them,” said Executive Director Danika Nadzan. “If they sign up, their pet must get spayed or neutered within three months of signing up, and we’ll help them do that. For many people, it’s a temporary need.”
The program provides each pet with enough food for about two weeks.
“People often need assistance after they’ve spent their paycheck on bills and groceries,” said Nadzan. “Most people are extremely grateful. They love their pets dearly and they come to us because they don’t know what else to do or what to feed their animals.”
She said that in a survey distributed two years consecutively, they asked clients how they spent the money they were able to save. Most said they paid for food, medicine or their utility bills.
“These are people who love their pets very much, people who want to do the best for their animals, but need help financially,” Nadzan said. “We’ve also had people that are struggling financially to get their pets fixed. They’re very grateful and they want to help and donate what they can. They’re not just looking for a handout.”
In fact, recipients of food from the food pantry are asked to volunteer their time. Nadzan said this may be by filling food buckets, helping distribute them, handing out fliers, publicizing the programs of ETSN on social media, doing projects from home that benefit the Appalachian Feral Cat Allies and other ways.
“A big component is that people who have gotten help come and give back to help others,” said Nadzan.
All but three of the volunteers that help handout the food to recipients were or are beneficiaries of the program. Nadzan said that 30 percent of the volunteers filling buckets this month currently receive food.
One woman, Patsy Schlang, single-handedly organizes the whole food pantry operation in Roan Mountain which serves between 50 and 80 pets. The Seventh Day Adventist Church hosts her service, and Nadzan said she greatly appreciates them for their generosity and Schlang for all of her commitment.
Tractor Supply Company of Elizabethton has been gracious and consistently allowed ETSN to fill their buckets monthly on the back dock.
“Until we have our own place, we can only fill buckets on one day of the month,” she said. “When we load them onto the bus, it is so full that the aisle is about six inches wide. From floor to ceiling, we use every single spot.”
Nadzan stressed the need for a building to rent.
“We’ve managed to not pay any facility expenses for seven years, but we are getting too big and helping too many people to be able to continue to do it out of a school bus,” she said.
She said that many places in town would work and that they have considered some, but that the location must be affordable for a non-profit.
“People can donate to our building fund for a rental location, or if they have a place that they can donate all or part of, they can call me,” she said.
She said she would like to have a building for an office, to be more available to the public, as well as to be able to facilitate wellness checkups for low-income pet owners. However, she said supplies alone for basic wellness checkups workshops twice monthly would cost $15,000 per year.
“There are numerous possibilities for 2016, but everything costs money,” she said.
The organization relies predominantly on donations and fundraisers to support its low-cost spay and neuter program, which has fixed over 3,400 animals, the food pantry and numerous education efforts. Nadzan said they have been very blessed to have the support of local businesses including Big John’s United Postal Service, Tractor Supply and others.
“We really depend on people’s help, and we’re willing to help whomever we can,” she said.
There are many creative ways to help like donating aluminum cans or scrap metal to Omnisource at the corner of Lynn Avenue and Mill Street. Or, 15 percent of every purchase at 3B’s This That & the Other Shop in Hampton is donated to ETSN. You can also shop at the ETSN Etsy store or on Amazon Smile. To learn more about volunteer opportunities, visit the service page of
The next fundraiser event will be Santa Paws at Tractor Supply on December 12, and nearly 100 pets got to meet Santa at the event last year.
To sign up, you must have proof of income, and (beginning in 2016) proof of spay or neuter. To receive food within the month of application, it must be submitted by the second Saturday of the month. More information on programs and volunteering is available by calling 423-289-5548, sending an email to or stopping by Tractor Supply on Saturdays from 10:30 a.m. to noon.
Star Photo/Rebekah Price

Star Photo/Rebekah Price

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