At first glance, the little box mounted on a post at Stephanie’s Pet Spa & Pet Center in Hillsboro resembles the Little Free Library boxes from Altrusa of Highland County, where people can donate a book or borrow one.
The difference is with this box, people can donate pet food and treats, or take some, depending on their need.
According to Highland County Humane Society Animal Shelter Manager Megan Wolf, the idea for a “Blessing Box” for Highland County pets came from members of the organization, and in particular from member Sally Hinton, who said the concept originated from Altrusa’s boxes, one of which is located across from Merchants National Bank near the corner of East Main and North High streets in uptown Hillsboro.
Hinton is kind-hearted when it comes to animals, and said the sight of malnourished animals being brought in to both the Humane Society shelter and the Highland County Dog Pound tug at her heart strings.
“This is 2021 — nothing should be starving at this time,” Hinton said. “This is where my heart’s at, with the ‘fur babies’ as I like to call them.”
Christi Hauke, president of the board at the Humane Society, said that one of their key missions is to insure there is no maltreatment of animals anywhere.
The local society aims to reduce the incidence of neglect, maltreatment and abuse, and Hauke said efforts like the pet blessing box will go a long way in helping those who are indigent or struggling.
Humane Society member Sarah Roe said that she and Hinton worked with members of the community, private donors and the Highland County Dog Pound to secure donations.
“We commute into town for a more centrally located position for the box,” she said. “So at Stephanie’s, you don’t have to come when they’re open to visit the box, and even if the gate is closed, it’s still a short walking distance and you just give what you can and take what you need.”
She said dog food is on the top shelf of the box with cat food on the bottom, along with a variety of treats in addition to wet and dry food.
Hauke said that in her 16 years of working with the low income population, she found that most people would oftentimes make the decision to buy food for their animal instead of food for themselves.
She shared a story from early in her career of an impoverished elderly woman who had cans of tuna in her cabinet that she was saving for her “cat babies,” and would visit a local food pantry to sustain herself.
“There is no reason someone should have to make that kind of decision,” Hauke said. “This blessing box is something that’s going to help those folks out there that are confronted with having to make those decisions.”
Hinton said she was involved in a food pantry on North Shore Drive in the Rocky Fork Lake area for over four years, and that many times she witnessed situations similar to the one Hauke spoke of, where people would come in and request certain items to give to their pets.
At present, the sole pet blessing box is located at Stephanie’s Pet Spa & Pet Center, across from Samaritan Outreach Services at the corner of Collins Avenue and North East Street. But Hinton said there are plans to locate one at Rocky Fork Lake and other areas in the county.
Wolf said that if donations of pet food reach the point of causing an overflow, it would be a blessing and the organization is prepared for it.
“At that point, if things start to get out of hand and we didn’t have enough room in the box, one of our members would come out and pick up the overflow and take it to where they live for storage,” Wolf said. “If it’s going to be bad weather, give the shelter a call or call Stephanie’s to see if they can temporarily store it until one of us can get there.”
In the event of donations to the blessing box during inclement weather, contact the Humane Society or Stephanie’s Pet Spa & Pet Center at 937-393-3890.
The Highland County Humane Society shelter is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. and can be reached at 937-393-2110.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.