Small Things Often Can Make a Big Difference for People and Pets

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We’ve all heard that we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff. There is good logic in the advice, but maybe sometimes we should sweat the small stuff. When trying to solve big issues — social isolation, loneliness, depression, poverty — focusing on small things matters.

I look at the success of CICOA’s Pet Connect program. Since launching a pilot program in January 2022, we’ve delivered nearly 8,000 pounds of pet food for 71 dogs, 38 cats and one rabbit. You may be wondering how this could even make a dent in social isolation, loneliness, depression or poverty.

It matters. I’ve seen the stats, and I’ve seen the smiles on the faces of seniors. I’ve heard their stories, and I’ve met some of their furry friends.

The power of pets to help seniors combat loneliness

Seniors who can’t afford pet food too often give their meals to their pets. They have to decide whether to buy medicine for themselves or for their pets.

We know from multiple studies that having a pet can improve cognition and can boost moods. Pets can be a lifeline, especially for homebound seniors. But seniors also worry about how they are going to care for their pets.

That’s where Pet Connect comes in. What started as a pilot program to supply pet food, has turned into a full-fledged effort to help low-income seniors in our community, thanks to a $20,000 Discovery Grant from Meal on Wheels America and PetSmart Charities, as well as lots of individual donations.

Pet Wellness Clinic with CICOA, Indy CARES and FIDO
A CICOA Pet Connect client receives a free check-up at a Pet Wellness Clinic with Indy CARES and FIDO.

In addition to pet food, we also deliver pet supplies. This summer, we hosted our first pet wellness clinic in partnership with Friends of Indianapolis Dogs Outside (FIDO) and Indy CARES. Those who participate in our Pet Connect program were able to bring their pets to the clinic (FIDO also provided pet transportation) where pets received vaccinations, de-worming, flea treatments and nail trims.

How to get involved with Pet Connect

Pet Connect has morphed into a complete continuum of care, and that’s pretty cool. But, there is opportunity to do even more. We’ve received calls from veterinarians asking if we need help. We’re getting messages from people in the community offering to volunteer. We’re developing partnerships with local businesses, including pet supply stores. For example, Indy Humane provides about 75 percent of the pet food and supplies provided in the Pet Connect program.

Right now, the program is limited to CICOA clients who receive home-delivered meals through Meals & More. Our goal is to expand the program to help more low-income seniors and their pets throughout the eight-county region we serve. We’d welcome other Area Agencies on Aging to replicate Pet Connect in their communities, too.

Here’s what we need to make it happen:

Carlisa Richards and Chelsea Neulieb

Volunteers

We are building a volunteer program specifically for Pet Connect for people who are passionate about people and pets. Sign up to get notified when applications are open.

Pet Food Donations

Donations

We need additional funds for food, supplies and to host more wellness clinics. Donate here to provide pet food and supplies for seniors. Monthly gifts help us make sure seniors get their monthly deliveries.

It’s amazing, the difference small gestures can make for people and their pets.


CICOA President and CEO Tauhric Brown
Tauhric Brown

As President and CEO, Tauhric Brown uses his strategic vision and experience in the elderly and disability service industry to expand CICOA services and collaborative partnerships to better meet the needs of the vulnerable populations we serve. Before joining CICOA, Brown served as the chief operating officer for Senior Services, Inc. in Kalamazoo, Mich. His career started in the U.S. Army, and then he became a successful owner/operator for a multi-carrier wireless retail company. Inspired by his family and upbringing, he made the switch to the nonprofit world to fulfill his dream of improving the lives of others.


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