As animal lovers looking to give back, Eileen Engleson-Stearns and her husband, Fred, started volunteering in 2011 for Meals on Wheels Metro Tulsa’s PAWS (Pets Assisting Wellness in Seniors) Program, which delivers pet food to seniors. People who first qualify for MOW can then apply to get PAWS food deliveries.
“We were both working full time and wanted to do some volunteering — something involving animals,” Engleson-Stearns says. “I read about the PAWS program and how it enables pet owners to properly feed and care for their animals. ”
On the third Saturday of each month, the couple drives to Southern Agriculture for their allotment of pet food. After measuring each client’s portion at home, they then deliver it.
“With it being just once a month, it is not a huge commitment of time,” Engleson-Stearns says. “We enjoy visiting with our clients, and learning how they are doing. In this time of COVID, it is important to let them know we are there to help them.”
PAWS began in 2008 as Paws Starz, part of a local 4-H chapter. MOW later took over the program. Over the past year, the number of clients assisted by the PAWS program has more than doubled, from 80 to nearly 200.
“We are grateful for the increased community support during the pandemic,” says MOW Special Projects Coordinator Lauren Willard. “That support has allowed us to expand all of our services to people who have been negatively impacted during this time, even if they are not homebound seniors. Our main goal of the PAWS program is to serve any MOW client who needs support for their pets.”
Willard credits the support of sponsors for the program’s continued growth. PAWS places food orders through Southern Agriculture and stores it there until it’s time for delivery. The Mid-Continental Kennel Club hosts events for donations and lends volunteers. Street Cats Inc. donates cat food and litter.
Volunteers are always welcome for the program, which requires a small commitment of a few hours one Saturday a month. However, the rewards for everyone involved are endless, according to many current helpers.
“It has been a wonderful experience,” Engleson-Stearns says. “Our clients are so grateful, and we have a lot of laughs talking dogs and cats.
“It feels good to know we have brightened their day — ours, too!”