QUINCY -- When Victoria Dry found out that many of the patrons at Salem Evangelical Church's Saturday meals were in jeopardy of losing their pets, she was compelled to help.
Having volunteered for two years at the church's weekly meals -- the church offers free hot meals to community members every at 11:30 a.m. every Saturday in a ministry known as BJ's Cafe -- Dry got to know the patrons and found that most were living in poverty, barely able to afford food for their family pets. Dry brought the idea for a pet food ministry to the Rev. Matthew Hunt, who believed in the cause.
"To hear people say they would have to give up their pets, I really couldn't handle it," Dry said. "Something had to be done."
Dry is a social worker and also owns a pet-sitting service, From Wags to Whiskers.
"I just put an announcement in the church bulletin, and the donations started coming in," she said. "I really didn't publicize it."
Dry has named the cause the Paws and Prayers Pet Food Ministry, and she distributes the donated food once a month during the Saturday meals. Last Saturday marked the fourth distribution since collections began.
Word has gotten out, and several local stores have begun donating damaged bags of cat and dog food and cash or store credit. The ministry gives away dog and cat food, litter, treats and shampoo.
"People are very caring," she said. "I do think there are more good people than bad people out there."
Those who receive from the ministry get one bag of either cat food or dog food. Dry said the donations are completely wiped out after each distribution. Saturday was the largest distribution the ministry has had.
"I've had people cry. They're so excited that they won't have to give up their pets," she said. "This has really worked on my heart."