Henry’s Helping Paws Program delivers to additional senior centers

State Senator Andy Dinniman (center) and Dr. Tom Garg of Hope Veterinary Specialists (left) deliver pet food to the Coatesville Area Senior Center as part of the Henry’s Helping Paws Program. Also, pictured is Nancy Althouse (right) of Caln who frequents the Coatesville Area Senior Center.

COATESVILLE — Henry’s Helping Paws Program, the initiative founded by state Senator Andy Dinniman and his wife, Margo, to keep people and their pets together, is now delivering free dog and cat food, along with vital veterinary medical services, to more local senior citizens in need and their pets.

Recently, Dinniman was joined by his rescue poodle, Jagger, and representatives from the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation (PVF) to make the first delivery of dog and cat food to the Coatesville Area Senior Center.

Named for Henry, the Dinniman family’s standard poodle who died in December 2014 and was well-known throughout the Chester County region, Henry’s Helping Paws Fund was launched in conjunction with Meals on Wheels of Chester County in 2016. It currently delivers pet food to several dozen senior citizens who are homebound or lack transportation. This program is administered by the PVF with the help of generous donations from PetSmart Charities.

“Henry was a wonderful dog and a great friend. I am very grateful that I was able to team up with the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation to carry on his legacy and help those in need keep their pets in their homes by providing free pet food and veterinary care,” Dinniman said.

Last year, the program began deliveries of pet food and care items to the Phoenixville Senior Center to meet the need of local seniors in feeding and caring for their beloved dogs and cats.

This year, Dinniman and PVF announced they are not only expanding Henry’s Helping Paws Fund to serve additional senior centers in Chester County (they plan to add two more in 2019), they’re also expanding its scope to include healthcare vouchers that can be utilized at designated veterinary hospitals and mobile veterinary practices.  Seniors in need, identified by the senior centers and/or Meals on Wheels, will be eligible to receive a voucher, valued at $250.00, to cover costs for their pet’s healthcare at Pennsylvania Veterinary Association designated hospitals.  Participants whose pets require more extensive medical treatment can have their veterinarian request additional assistance from PVF ‘s Last Chance program.

“We are excited about expanding into the Coatesville Senior Center and look forward to moving into at least two more Centers in 2019. We are very grateful for the assistance of PetSmart Charities whose generosity has been key in allowing us to provide this assistance,” said Dr. Tom Garg of Hope Veterinary Specialists. Dr. Garg worked with Sen. Dinniman to develop the program and assists the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation in running the program.

Dr. Malcolm Kram, Chair of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Foundation Board of Trustees said this particular program is very much aligned with the veterinary profession’s belief in giving back to society. This program’s continued expansion is dependent on the generosity of pet owners throughout the Commonwealth. Kram further stated that he is looking forward to the 2019 pet healthcare events planned for both Coatesville and Phoenixville.

Dinniman said he came up with the idea for a mobile food pantry when he heard about senior citizens, and disabled residents on low or fixed incomes who are homebound and struggle to afford adequate food, pet care items and veterinary medical services for their pets.

“When I learned that some seniors, who relied on Meals on Wheels for food, were splitting their meal with their dogs or cats, I knew we could help,” Dinniman said. “Since then, it’s been an honor to see this program grow and expand as we expect it to become a model across Pennsylvania and the nation.”

Dinniman added that by keeping people and their pets together in their homes, the program doesn’t only have therapeutic value for our seniors, but it also takes the burden off rescue organizations that are overwhelmed with surrendered animals.

“It’s the season of giving and, for me and my wife, working with incredible partners on expanding this worthwhile program to touch so many more lives is truly one of the greatest gifts of all,” Dinniman said.

Pet food, care items, and veterinary services for Henry’s Helping Paws Fund are funded by private and corporate donors through the PVF (the charitable arm of the Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association). Both Meals on Wheels and the Senior Centers distribute the food to the participants. In addition, representatives from local senior centers, senior housing facilities, and other nonprofits identify eligible homebound pet owners in need.

To learn more about Henry’s Helping Paws Fund, visit www.pavetfoundation.org.

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