FRESNO, Calif. (KGPE) — It started with a desire to help families who were struggling financially and having to choose between feeding their pets or feeding themselves.
It started with helping a few families a month to serving thousands each year.
It’s the passion of, Jennifer Quinn Yovino.
Yovino shares what it takes to succeed.
It looks like the back of a retail store. But everything here is free for the pet owners who stop by at Halo café, Fresno county’s pet food pantry.
“So halo café is kind of the community food bank but it’s for pets instead of people,” Yovino said.
Yovino says she got the idea for the pantry when she and her husband were volunteering at Valley Animal Center in Fresno during the recession.
“It was during a time of severe economic downturn and we saw a lot of people were trying to surrender their pets,” Yovino said.
She says she had an idea to help those struggling pet owners feed their cats, dogs, and other pets.
“And so if we can keep pets who have a home and a person who loves them if we can keep them in that home and all it is a bag of dog food every month that’s an easy choice,” Yovino said.
Yovino says one of the first clients of Halo café was Rhonda Hutchins.
“I can’t afford all my monthly medication and pay for my pet food so they help out a lot, a lot,” Hutchins said.
Rhonda says she turned to the pantry for help after she was diagnosed with cancer.
“I know when it first started I would meet Jennifer and her husband in the parking lot of a mini-mall and they would give me food out of their truck,” Hutchins said.
The pantry has grown to serving 50 to 200 families each month. The homeless, elderly, and low income.
“You know we can feed a pet for five dollars a month we can keep a pet in their home out of a shelter, alive, happy and not hungry for five dollars a month,” Yovino said.
They do this all through donations and it’s staffed by volunteers who donate their time.
“We all have a fire inside us and we know what we’re called to do and what we’re drawn to do, and do not under any circumstances let anyone stop you from doing what your heart is calling you to do,” Yovino said.
To her ‘Girl power’ is finding your passion and your voice.
Yovino says if you can find the right people to rally around you whether its a little boy or a little girl, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you look like, you can make it happen if the fire is inside you don’t let anyone extinguish it.