Story by Bonnie Craig Photos Courtesy of Donna DeConcini
As we are all aware, the Covid-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on lives worldwide. In addition to direct health repercussions, people are facing financial struggles on an astronomical level. Right now, food banks are crucial for so many, but most food banks don’t factor in the need to feed the non-human members of our families; This is the gap filled by Southern Arizona Animal Food Bank (SAAFB).
SAAFB founder Donna DeConcini under-stands this type of support is essential, stating, “No one should ever have to choose between feeding themselves or feeding their animals.” This was her feeling when she and her daughter started providing financial help to people struggling to care for their horses. One day some friends of Donna’s had gone out with their horses for a ride through Saguaro National park. When they returned there were two new horses tethered to their barn. While this abandonment was unfortunate, it clearly showed the owners’ care for their animals. Rather than just randomly dumping the horses, they had deliberately taken them to a place where they saw others being well cared for.
Perhaps if these people had had access to the type of help Donna and her daughter provided at the time, they would not have been forced to part with their horses. While this amazing service allowed many to catch their breath and avoid having to surrender their horses, it just wasn’t financially sustainable for Donna. In 2015, however, rather than give up, she decided to pivot just a bit, and continue to make a huge difference for animals and their families in Southern Arizona.
That was when she founded the Southern Arizona Animal Food Bank, a 501c3 non-profit providing an array of goods and services to a wide variety of needy animals in our community. In the beginning, she operated the organization out of her home carport, but as more people learned about this amazing group and became interested in donating as well as seeking their help, they realized they were growing out of their current space.
Flash forward to 2020 in the midst of a global health crisis, and what usually averaged about 20 requests for help per month had rocketed to over 150, as so many had lost their jobs, their health, or even their family members. Luckily, however SAAFB had also been gathering steam, and so along with a partnering group of local artists, they began to search for a new base of operations.
On December 12, 2020, SAAFB opened the doors of their new combination retail, donation, and distribution center, SAAFB Artistic Market Place. The store front operates as a retail space for local artists, many of whom, for health reasons, have had to stop vending at farmer’s and artisan’s markets during the pandemic. The shop is staffed by Donna, along with store manager, Anette Martin so the artists can simply drop off their wares to be sold, a portion of proceeds going to benefit SAAFB. The back half is where SAAFB operates, taking in and storing donations, organization member Dave Zinky meticulously sorting and counting everything. These items are then distributed to community members in need.
While a large amount of these community donations consists of food and treats for cats and dogs, SAAFB will go out of their way to help any animal. Working with a local food waste reduction group they have provided supplemental food for chickens. They have come up with fish and rabbit food. Once they even rallied to provide crickets for a hungry reptile. It really seems that there are no bounds to the help this group strives to provide. In addition to food, they help with leashes and collars, toys, beds, baby gates, and crates, pretty much anything an animal could need. If they do experience an overabundance, they work with other local groups such as Friends of PACC to share the wealth.
Donna hopes that SAAFB can go on to host spay and neuter events, as well as shot clinics, for which she is currently writing grants, but for now, the opening of SAAFB Artistic Marketplace is a serious victory for SAAFB, the artists involved, and most of all, the community it so generously serves. Just between its December 12th, 2020 opening and New Year’s Day 2021 they were able to help 109 families by sharing 4,200 pounds of food and collecting 6,100 pounds by donation in the month of December as well. It seems that 2021 is off to promising start for SAAFB.
Tuesday through Sunday 10AM to 6PM people can go and browse the creations on display at the SAAFB Artistic Market Place, and often enjoy some cuddles from Donna’s daughter’s rescued pups, Henry, Fanny, and Penny, the store’s unofficial mascots. They are located at 6252 East Speedway in the Monterey Village shopping center, where they accept donations of almost anything animal related.
For more information on SAAFB events, to donate, or to request assistance, go to www.SAAFB.org or call 520-268-7299.