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Record high inflation forces Northeast Ohioans to make tough choices, one county comes together to help

Lake County program designed to help both humans and their pets
Lake County food distribution
Posted at 10:38 PM, Mar 08, 2023

EASTLAKE, Ohio — Cars wrapped around the Eastlake Senior Center Building in Lake County Wednesday morning. One car after another pulled up and was filled up with food.

“It helps her out because she is retired and has a limited income,” said one driver who was there.

“It helps me out, plus I have a family member who has lingering COVID and hasn’t been able to work for months so I share what I get with them,” said another.

The food distribution drive-through is intended for senior citizens but no one is turned away. Since the program started the number of people being helped is up by roughly eight times.

“It’s steadily grown over the years. Last month I think there was over 400 individuals who came through the program. A lot of people are talking about inflation and their benefits being reduced. So a lot of them are just saying it’s a blessing,” said Michael Zuren, the Lake County treasurer.

Larry Bogenrief is a pastor at Willow Praise Church, the church that organizes the drive-through food distribution. He said the need is worse after the pandemic.

“It makes a difference because people are on a fixed income so they’re trying to pinch pennies, we’re just looking at ways to help them to extend their budget. Sometimes it’s between whether they’re going to get their prescriptions, or they’re going to get their groceries, or whether they’re going to feed their pet. These are simple choices but they’re painful when you don’t have finances to help,” Bogenrief said.

Officials said it’s not just humans who need help, the need for help taking care of pets has skyrocketed too.

Ohio Paws with Purpose is a pet food pantry that helps feed cats and dogs when their humans sometimes struggle to feed themselves.

Last month, the organization helped supply 150 cats and dogs with food, treats and toys, according to Elvira Bellegoni, the founder and executive director. First the problem was the pandemic.

“Now it’s mostly the inflation, some of the pet food has doubled in price,” Bellegoni said.

Allison and Ernie Edens have two cats. They’re on a fixed income and know all too well about paying the price to feed their cats. They’ve gone to the pet pantry for help.

“It makes it hard if we have to give up buying food for us to buy some food for them and getting the pet food at the pet pantry is such a blessing,” said Allison Edens.

For Bellegoni, it is a labor of love. “We have done a lot but we always hope we can do more,” said Bellegoni. ”It makes me feel good, I wish I could do more.

Like many non-profits the need is up while donations are down. There is a wish list on Ohio Paws with Purpose website.

Donations can also be dropped off.

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