By ELIZABETH BEILMAN
During these frigid winter months, sometimes there’s nothing more comforting than a hot meal. For those who can’t always afford one, a free dinner at a shelter can be a lifesaver.
However, Jeffersonville residents aren’t the only ones in need of food in the winter. Pets or abandoned animals are often forgotten — either given over to shelters or left hungry because their owners can’t afford to feed them.
This is why Sophie’s Hope Thrift Shoppe, a local store that donates a portion of its profits to Southern Indiana Animal Rescue, is opening a pet food pantry called Sophie’s Cupboard, the first of its kind in Southern Indiana.
“The economy’s been kind of up and down and all around. I think that when people are budgeting their money, they’re a little unsure of what the future’s going to bring, so they’re trying to prioritize,” said Lynda Sylvester, manager of Sophie’s thrift store. “Heating is top priority. Pets tend to go down on the priority list.”
People are encouraged to donate pet items, including dog and cat food, litter, beds or any other items so that the pantry can remained stocked. Donations can be dropped off in the thrift store, 3808 E. Tenth St., Jeffersonville.
Sophie’s Cupboard open some time in early or mid-March and offer free items to anyone in need.
Trish Roehm, who helped found Sophie’s Hope and is also the president of Southern Indiana Animal Rescue, said winter is a particularly harsh time of the year for pets.
“It happens a lot in rural areas that pets are tied outside, and in the winter they can’t survive the cold times, so a lot of people surrender their animals,” said Roehm, adding that sometimes surrendering pets is the only option because owners don’t have proper shelter.
Some people also are forced to give their pets away to a shelter simply because they can’t afford to feed them. This doesn’t mean that owners don’t care for their pets — in fact, it’s quite the opposite.
“So many people love their animals, but they don’t have a choice but to turn them in,” she said.
Roehm said that she hopes Southern Indiana can one day have a large pet food storage facility through Sophie’s Cupboard, much like the ones in Louisville.
Roehm’s and Sylvester’s goal is to keep pets out of shelters, which can cause trauma to them.
“The more donations we have, the more animals we can help,” Roehm said. “Our priority is to keep the animals in their homes.”
Sophie’s thrift store is entering its third year of operations and is named after a rescue dog that Sylvester fostered. She and Roehm, who are neighbors, founded the thrift store because they wanted to find another way to support Southern Indiana Animal Rescue.
“We kind of put our heads together and thought it might be a good vehicle to get money together,” Sylvester said.