One of them came in flannel pajamas. Another wore an antler hoodie, maintaining the holiday vibe. and several sporting Santa hats as their cars slowly slipped through the Tustin parking lot.
When they finally reached the front of the class, many of their windows bent down to kiss the volunteers.
It was the second Saturday of the month, and OC Animal Care was on high alert to help feed hungry pets. The hungry came in all its forms: cats, dogs, guinea pigs, fluffy rabbits, to farm animals, birds, and rats.
The pet food pantry started in 2020 in response to the pandemic as families struggled financially, said Monica Schmidt, assistant director of the county shelter.
“We didn’t want people to hand over their pets because they couldn’t afford them. We didn’t want them to choose between feeding their children instead of their pets,” she said.
Schmidt said that during the last drive, volunteers distributed 11,470 pounds of food, which helped feed 682 animals. They also provided toys and treats for dogs and cats. The dogs acted like excited children on Christmas morning.
When Delores Segura and her son, Eric, came to the front, tears were in her eyes explaining that she had cancer and was in hospice care.
“It means a lot not just to the animal, but to the people,” she said of the help she received from the pantry.
Segura was with Floppy, a rescue dog with a tongue that hovered from the right side of its mouth like a tube.
“He’s my angel. She said of the shaggy, tan and brown little mutt. The love he gives is amazing.” She said the 9-year-old petted the side where the tumor was growing.
Volunteer Amy Berry, a 17-year-old from Dana Point, understood very well their relationship. She said she bought a mouse from under a man in Petco after she heard him say he wanted the black and white rodent as food for the snakes.
She told him, “It’s mine.”
Oscar Cupcake went on to live four love-filled years at Berry’s house.
Amy Berry’s association with animals spans at least three generations. Known as the Cat Lady in the Maui community, her grandmother saved a long biography of creatures including a chinchilla, mongoose, and turkey, and she, too, survived in a feed store.
Eileen Berry, her mother, has volunteered for OC Animal Care since the birth of her daughter. After Amy Perry was born, her mother strapped the baby to her chest in a BabyBjorn carrier and continued to volunteer.
So it was no surprise that when Santa Claus asked 6-year-old Amy Perry what she wanted for Christmas, she replied, “I want to help homeless animals.”
Eileen Perry, Not Santa, made a Christmas wish come true, and she created Emmy’s Hope. The website describes it as “a community for animals and the people who love them”.
Eileen Perry, an actress who has appeared in two Hollywood movies, said Amy Perry puts her money into the organization. She helps provide food, toys, and supplies to shelters like OC Animal Care.
Amy Berry estimated that 500 dogs were rescued through the group’s networks with other charities, but mostly works with Beverly Hills reality star Lisa Vanderpump to rescue dogs.
On Saturday morning, dozens of volunteers from different walks of life associated with their love of beings. They worked for two hours, keeping the line of cars moving smoothly, and hoisting 20-pound bags of food into open chests and back seats.
And in between all of that, they still manage to fawn on dogs.
“I remember you! It was your birthday last month,” a woman said to Hippo, a one-year-old Shar-Pei mix who jumped up and down inside the car.
Amy and Ellen Perry’s work is interrupted when a tearful woman arrives carrying a backpack with a black kitten in it.
“I can’t leave another one on the street,” she said devastated. She said she lived in an apartment and is not allowed to have pets.
The women brainstormed the rescue groups. In the end, the vet agreed to take the cat – they named her Jinx – and find her at home.
“When I opened the backpack and saw the cat, it stared into my soul,” said Eileen Berry.
Schmidt said that the store, which will take place next January 8, will continue to operate as long as there is a need. “So far we haven’t seen a drop.”
Schmidt said that since the start of the program in June 2020, the shelter has provided 112,496 pounds of food, helping 9,988 animals including 5,098 dogs, 4,047 cats, 843 rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, etc.
Distribution is based on donations from individuals, non-profit organizations, and corporations. Fullerton Elks Lodge recently won a $3,500 Community Investment Program grant specifically for the Food Bank.
Anyone wishing to donate or volunteer can visit the OC Animal Care website: ocpetinfo.com or call 714-935-6848.