Community

Block party lends a helping paw to keep pet pantry going

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When calamity strikes —a sweeping natural disaster, or even a global pandemic — the most vulnerable populations like the elderly, children and the poor, often bear the brunt of the impact.

But what about furrier denizens? You know, pets.

“When a disaster happens, people don’t think of the pets,” said Daniella Scala-Nathan. “They’re the forgotten ones sometimes.”

Scala-Nathan owns Paw It Forward in Valley Stream, the only privately owned pet pantry in Nassau County. In fact, pet owners often grapple with the difficult choice of leaving their pets in an emergency because of limited sheltering options, and the inability to keep their Fido fed in stressful, unstable situations.

Scala-Nathan started the pet pantry five years ago with her now-late husband, Rob. The idea was to help pet owners secure essential pet food during severe storms and hurricanes, the most predictive disasters on Long Island.

But then families found themselves coping with a much different threat: the coronavirus pandemic. Dozens of financially pinched pet owners abruptly faced the difficult prospects of surrendering and abandoning their beloved pets. Demand for the pantry’s pet food skyrocketed, and Scala-Nathan had her hands full.

Now she needs more storage space.

Scala-Nathan already got a boost in space shortly after her husband’s death in 2020, thanks to a cash donation from the Freeport-based nonprofit food bank Long Island Cares. That allowed her to move her dog food supply from her home basement to a bigger shed.

Now, Scala-Nathan needs a second shed to house her cat food which, she says, is an incredibly hard donation to secure and preserve.

To help make that happen, Scala-Nathan will host a block party fundraiser on Saturday, Aug. 20 at 118 Clarendon Drive, starting at 1 p.m. And she won’t be at it alone. In fact, the whole neighborhood is pitching in to make it happen.

“The whole block is amazing,” Scala-Nathan said. “My whole block loves what I do, so we pulled together as a community to do a block party so that they are all involved. We’re praying and hoping the 20th goes off without a hitch.”

The 42-year-old Valley Stream native says the block party will double-duty as a tribute to her community, which has fueled her motivation to keep the pantry’s service open, and even helped pull her through her own period of personal crisis. Not only did she lose her husband, but her mom died a few months later, as well as a cherished volunteer.

Even more, Scala-Nathan — who had lung removal surgery as a child and suffers from asthma — was diagnosed with a small lung tumor last year. Atop her own health struggles, she also takes care of her 75-year-old paralyzed father — a retired deputy sheriff and veteran, who lives next door to her.

But amid such crushing challenges, her community’s commitment to Scala-Nathan’s cause remains strong.

“If it weren’t for my volunteers, I would have shut down Paw it Forward,” she said. “Our volunteers do the back-breaking lifting and moving (of pet food). And if it weren’t for all the great pet stores and personal donors that donate to us, we would not be able to keep helping.”

Partygoers will be treated to a 36-foot ground-level water slide, a snow cone machine, raffle baskets, and a music. Valley Caterers and Bagel Boss will offer food, with proceeds benefitting the pantry and the new cat food shed.

Scala-Nathan also seeks gift cards and other donations for the raffle baskets.

“Everything is donated, so right now we are trying to express that we really need to get more donors to donate food and sell tickets,” Scala-Nathan said.

For more information, visit the Paw it Forward Pet Pantry page on Facebook.

Have an opinion about the Paw It Forward block party? Send an email to jlasso@liherald.com