Helping pet owners a pound at a time | News

Big animal lover Jessica Bankiewicz dreamed of founding a non-profit organization that would help pets and their owners. She wouldn’t have lived to see her dream come true, because Bankewicz died unexpectedly in

age 32.

Her father-in-law and stepfather, Ted Bankiewicz Sr. and Ted Bankiewicz Jr., have made it their mission to create an organization that Jessica will be proud of, and thus born for the love of paws, a pantry and safe haven focused on seniors and their pets.

The Paws Meals on Wheels Pet Food Bank provides 12,000 pounds of pet food per month to seniors, vets, the disabled, and anyone else who struggles with the cost of feeding beloved animals.

At 7:30 a.m. on the second Saturday of the month, cars begin lining up at Wickham Park Stables waiting for the 16-foot truck that is a mobile pet food store.

“We give out an average of 3,000 pounds that day,” said Ted Bankewicz Sr.

The second mobile store arrives at 10 a.m. on the second Thursday of the month in Barefoot Bay.

Pet food help is available to anyone on Medicare, Medicaid or Food Stamps.

This brick and mortar pet store is located in Felsmere. Her sanctuary for seniors and pets for seniors who are no longer able to care for animals is also located in

Region.

“For many seniors, their dog, cat, bird or other pet is their friend, family or love, and the paws give them peace of mind that their pet will be cared for with love and compassion,” said volunteer Claudia Martino.

If a forever home cannot be found, the animal will live its life under the care of Paws volunteers, who will also board a temporary pet place for seniors undergoing surgery.

Paws has grown in leaps and bounds, adding a former Space Coast Kibble Kitchen under its wing. Pankiewicz, a retired police officer from the K-9 unit, looks for additional space. While the Fellsmere store is open for distribution Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, welcoming Brevard residents, Pankiewicz admits it’s a long ride.

“We are looking for a fixed location in Brevard,” he said.

Getting over 120,000 pounds of pet food served by Paws in 2019 and 2020 is no easy feat.

“We don’t steal, but we beg and borrow,” Bankewicz said.

Donations for the love of paws are always appreciated. Anyone interested in helping set up a permanent pet food bank in Brevard should contact Pankiewicz at 772-539-2417. For more information visit pawspetsanctuary.org.

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