Syracuse Nonprofit Exists to Help Pets in Need

The Kia Foundation serves as city’s only pet food bank

The Westcott Community Center in Syracuse was filled with a scent that pet owners know all too well recently — pet food. Volunteers from the Kia Foundation Inc. lugged in 2,000 pounds of food and supplies for their latest monthly giveaway since the company’s inception in September 2018.

A line of pet owners starting from the center’s door stretched to the street. Inside, The Kia Foundation’s founder, Sam Washington, pointed our the lack of pet resources in Syracuse. For some in financial distress, a beloved pet may be all they have. 

“It started from a love of animals,” said Washington, recounting the passing of his dog Kia, a Shar Pei and Pitbull mix, in 2009 when medical options became too expensive. 

Now, Washington and his wife Kate Berry, the program’s director, have created a nonprofit to provide a platform to help dog owners. The organization holds monthly events and delivers food to immobile pet owners meeting certain qualifications.

In line, some were individual pet owners, while others were foster or rescue home pet owners.

Sara Allen got a ride from her hometown of Fulton, 30 miles away, to attend her third giveaway. She uses the food to feed her own pets, while spending her own money to take care of feral cats in her neighborhood. After waiting in line outside, Allen walked into the building and looked around at the tables, which overflowed with pet food and toys. 

“There’s several generations of pet helpers right in this room,” she said as she looked at Washington’s five young children seated behind the tables to help distribute supplies. 

Washington’s oldest son, Sam Jr., 16, showed videos of the family at their house scooping food into bags to prepare for the event. Although Washington and Berry both work full-time, they always make time for giving back. 

Once the family discovered the lack of pet services here in Syracuse, they set to work on how to help fill that void.

“It doesn’t even feel like work when you’re helping out the community,” Berry said. “We’ve identified a need that hasn’t been identified before.”

The Kia Foundation’s Pet Care Assistance Program delivers pet food on a monthly basis. To apply, applicants must be a veteran, home-bound or disabled individual 55 years of age or older. Learn more about the Kia Foundation here.

— Article and photos contributed by Matthew R. Geraci, with the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications

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