By Samantha Joseph
MARTIN COUNTY -- Those who feed the area's poorest seniors see it every day; people depriving themselves of food so their pets can get something to eat.
That's why supporters of the Council on Aging of Martin County's Meals on Wheels program collaborated on a fundraiser for the pets of homebound seniors.
Dr. Wayne Diamond, a veterinarian at Animal Care Extraordinaire, helped spearhead a fundraiser that collected more than 2,000 pounds of pet food and about $1,600 in cash donations.
"This year we collected so much more food that it's probably going to carry (recipients) through to most of next year," said Carla Gubernick, president of Palm City-based World of Mouth Media, which promoted and helped organize the event.
"It also garnered awareness for the issue at hand, opening it up to the public so that people are aware of this dilemma."
That dilemma, said Council on Aging spokeswoman Denise Belizar, involves hundreds of area seniors without enough food for them and their pets.
"Many people are surprised to find out about this. We all love our pets, but for some of those seniors their pets are the only family they have," Ms. Belizar said. "If they're having a particularly tough month, they may not be able to afford specialty pet food. They end up feeding some of their food to the animals, which isn't good for anybody."
A Nov. 17 fundraiser drew community leaders and garnered support from several local businesses, including Coast 101.3.
Among the supporters were Sheriff Robert Crowder and professional baseball player Scott Proctor, who spent time in a "dog house" in the parking lot of Animal Care Extraordinaire's Stuart office to encourage friends to donate to the cause.
Members of the Boys and Girls Club's Keystone Club also participated in the event, selling hotdogs, snacks and drinks.
It was the first time the organizers sought public participation, instead of limiting the fundraiser to donations from the clinic's clients, said Dr. Diamond, who arranged the event with fellow veterinarians, Ronald Ball and Roderick Wood.
Cathy Knowles, the Council on Aging's manager of meal services, also spent time in the "dog house" to help raise awareness of the plight of many of the area's seniors.
"Those who are on limited incomes often struggle to buy pet food," she said. "We want to ensure that the seniors and their pets receive proper nutrition."
For more information about the Council on Aging, call (772) 223-7800 or visit www.kanecenter.org. For more information about Animal Care Extraordinaire, call (772) 287-2513.