By Lauren Zaepfel
Year after year, as family's gather and give gifts, Mario's Pet Food Pantry founder Paulette Coty extends a helping hand to those in need of pet supplies to help take care of their companions, especially during the inevitably cold holiday season.
She explained Mario's is "geared for our military women and men that are in the service and had to leave their pets behind and somebody's caring for them. Homeless veterans - sometimes they don't have a home, but they still have their best buddy - and for people in need, low-income people," Coty said. "But it doesn't exclude anybody that is in real need. I won't ever refuse them, as long as I have the shelves full or the bins full."
Coty has run Mario's - named after her son, Mario D'Antuono, who lost his battle with cancer - since 2012. She explained the pantry, which operates year round, is in need of donations, especially since the winter months have arrived.
"The food goes out faster than it can come in," Coty said.
The community gives the food Mario's is able to offer.
"This is really run by the community and I'm only the instrument. The community is really great; they come from near and far to be able to support Mario's. People come from Wilson; they come from Lockport; they come from the Falls; they come from North Tonawanda," and more, Coty explained.
Mario's accepts cat food, dog food, birdseed, closed bags, open bags, clothes, collars, harnesses and more. "Anything having to do with animals," Coty said.
She explained pet owners might have purchased food they find their animals do not like and they do not know what to do with it.
"If their animals don't like or don't eat their food, another dog will be able to get a kibble, because they're in need," Coty said. "So many times they don't know what to do with the food and it goes to a good cause (at Mario's)."
Amy McQuay of the Town of Cambria is a volunteer at Mario's and she receives some donations of food for animals she helps care for.
"I got a donation for my godchild's family for their animals and I also get donations for a cat that I am taking care of," McQuay said.
She volunteers for one simple reason: "just a love of animals," McQuay said.
Coty assures "everything is examined before it heads out to another animal." Records are kept to ensure animals receiving the food have been given rabies shots and other necessary attention.
McQuay assists Coty by helping to accept food. "If she's (Coty) not available, I open up," she said. She stocks the shelves, makes sure the animals have their rabies shots when needed, as well.
Not only does Mario's accept food, but it also is a source of helpful information for pet owners in need.
"I give any information that's needed for them to secure the shots that are needed in order for them to get food," Coty said.
Coty is searching for more space to operate the pantry and store food. "I'm feverishly trying to find a temperature-controlled inside area in order to give the food out. I've got a whole SUV full of food and I don't know where to put it," she said. Coty also is seeking sponsorship to obtain the nonprofit certification, 501(c)(3).
Mario's currently accepts donations at two locations during set business hours. One is behind Immaculate Conception R.C. Church, near the white garage at 4671 Townline Road, which has a mailing address of Ransomville, but is known by most to be in the Sanborn area. Donations can be dropped off there from 10 a.m. to noon Mondays.
Gordon Ross of the Town of Cambria is the maintenance employee at the Immaculate Conception Church.
"I provide the space under the pastor's direction. This is something he (the Rev. Jim Bastian) believes in," Ross said.
The other location the pantry operates out of is at Niagara Presbyterian Church, 3712 Military Road in the Town of Niagara, where donations are accepted from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesdays. Those who wish to drop off donations can enter the front doors and look for a sign directing them to the staircase area. Donations can be scheduled for pick-up by contacting Coty at 716-465-3654 or [email protected].
Coty is able to cater to "probably 100 (animals) or so a month, between the two churches," she said.