WARRENSBURG, Mo. -- Think of it as Meals on Wheels -- for animals. Managers at a senior services charity in Warrensburg believe they're helping keep underprivileged seniors healthy by providing meals for their pets.
Melissa Gower manages Home Delivered Meals, which delivers prepared foods to seniors, as well as donated pet food to their animals. Gower says in many cases, these older people are shut-ins, and their animals represent their only companions.
"We go through almost 50 pounds of (pet) food per week," Gower said.
Each Tuesday, volunteers gather to prepare pet food deliveries for 23 hungry pets, and the next day, the kibble goes to the critters in their homes. Gower says many of these seniors were feeding their delivered personal meal to their animal, instead of eating it themselves.
Gower says the love they give and receive from their pets keeps them mentally healthy.
"Many of them find themselves without their mate," Gower said. "Their children are busy or maybe not caring, but they're alone. That pet is the only other being they see on a regular basis."
And the conversations that take place during deliveries are as good as gold. Mona Williams is a frequent volunteer with home delivered meals for pets. Disabled recipients like Patryca Singer are glad to get the donations.
"(Animals) are the reason we get up in the morning," Singer said. "It's to care for your baby. We call them our babies because they mean so much to us, especially when you live alone."
"People are lonely," Williams said. "Sometimes they don't get out a whole lot, and they don't have a lot of resources. They just appreciate someone caring about them."
"It encourages them. it gives them hope," Gower said. "When we have the opportunity to care for someone or something else, it gives us the need factor. We all need to be needed."
Gower adds that Home Delivered Meals for pets exists without money from federal or state agencies. If not for a few small grants, and donations from the community, some older people might have nothing to feed their furry friends.
Gower says the program is trying to raise money for a new storage building. She says it would provide organizers space to store donated pet food.