Many pet-owners barely able to cope with the cost of pet care under the economic plight of the pandemic faced the difficult prospects of surrendering or abandoning their beloved pets. Daniella Scala-Nathan, owner of The Paw It Forward Pet Pantry in Valley Stream, the only privately-owned pet pantry in Nassau County, helped to prevent something like that from happening. For five years, the pet pantry has provided a place where pet owners could come, fill out a form, and get their essential pet food. Nathan has managed to keep its service open in large part due to the generous food and supply donations from pet stores and residents.
But while the pandemic was her busiest time at the pantry, it has also been the most challenging time of her personal life. Two years of loss and grief began with the death of her husband Rob Nathan in April 2020, who co-founded the pantry with her back in 2016. She then lost a cherished volunteer due to Covid, followed by the loss of her mother due to Covid-unrelated causes.
In April of this year, Nathan, who underwent lung removal surgery as a child and suffers from asthma, was diagnosed with a small lung tumor. Atop battling her daily medically severe challenges, Nathan now faces the potential loss of her pet pantry as well. Lack of consistency in volunteers and pet food and supply donations is the biggest obstacle the pantry faces. “We don’t have consistent donors,” remarks Nathan. “The pet stores are really helpful” in bringing in donations, but during the pandemic, they scaled down their assistance. Although the pantry has five to eight “committed volunteers,” according to Nathan, she contends that the pantry needs more loyal soldiers.
One volunteer, Linda Gukian Brower, has been donating her time at the pantry for about a year. Brower was once in need of pet food herself for her older dog that couldn’t consume human food. “The pantry helped my dog and me for a couple of months, and once I got back on my feet, I really wanted to give back. I know how much it meant to my dog and me to have that bag of pet food in the house.”
She further added: “[Having dog food] gave me peace of mind. I wasn’t worrying every 50 seconds; I could put my head back into what I had to do to get back on my feet.”
“I hope God keeps me here to keep everything going,” said Nathan who is in urgent need of new volunteers as well as pet food donations and supplies.
Donations can be made at the main pantry on 114 Clarendon Drive, Valley Stream in the dropbox outside or through the pantries Amazon wish list found on the Paw it Forward Facebook Page. All brands are welcome and expired food for up to a year expired will be given to local feral cat colonies. For more information, or if in a pet food crisis, contact HappyPawItForward@gmail.com.