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January 10, 2011

Pet Meals on Wheels

Middle school student connects seniors and others with food for their animal companions

  • Ashley Franks, pictured here with shelter dog Benji, wants to make sure people and their pets have enough to eat. B. Franks

Ashley Franks can’t bear the thought of people or pets going hungry, so she couldn’t just stand by and do nothing when she learned it was happening in her community.

Thirteen-year-old Ashley first heard about the problem at an HSUS grassroots meeting she attended with her aunt, where Kim Alboum, North Carolina state director for The HSUS, spoke about many of the issues facing animals in the state.

Ashley was upset to hear that many people were having trouble affording pet food—and that some seniors were resorting to sharing their Meals on Wheels food deliveries with their cats and dogs. She quickly conceived of a way to help.

Food for all 

A member of the student council at Belmont Middle School, Ashley approached the council about doing a pet food fundraiser as their next charitable project. The council agreed, so Ashley got in touch with her local Meals on Wheels office. The nutritionist there began to notify seniors, and as more and more people signed up to receive food for their animal companions, it grew clear that the need for such a program had long existed.

With the Meals on Wheels pet food program a success, Ashley could have stopped there. Instead, she has increased the scope of her work, giving out free pet food to anyone who needs it. Ashley’s mom, Buffy Franks, is understandably proud and always supportive of her children’s efforts to help others—even if it means a living room filled with bags of dog and cat food.

A learning experience

An honors student who aspires to be a veterinarian, Ashley's experiences helping pets have also opened her eyes to the plight of other animals in need. After learning about fox and coyote penning, in which wild animals are intentionally attacked by dogs, she started educating her peers about the issue and plans to speak to her state lawmakers in hopes of banning the cruel practice.

"It is incredibly exciting to see the next generation of animal advocates developing in North Carolina," says Alboum. "Ashley has shown us that once we know, we can do better. She is a leader, and we can all look forward to watching what Ashley will do next to improve the lives of animals!"

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