PHOENIX — At 15 years old Sonya Colattur is wise beyond her years.
“These are our bags for senior companion pet care program,” said Sonya unloading a dozen bags from her mother's SUV.
“We do wet cat food and dry cat food depending on the dietary needs of the senior companion pet. Dogs as well of course.”
When she was just 10 years old, she came to her parents eager to start her own business, gathering them together to present her plan.
“When she approached her dad and I when she was 10, we were thinking maybe a lemonade stand, or something like that,” said her mother, Nancy.
Instead, she laid out an idea to form a 501(c)3 nonprofit called Grandpaws Pantry.
One that now provides monthly pet food supplies, at no cost, to seniors who are struggling to care for their companion pets because of illness, disability, or financial hardship.
“I grew up visiting my grandmother in assisted living facilities and I began to see the impact that companion pets had on the lives of senior citizens,” said Sonya.
“One of the reasons why this service is so important is because if senior citizens aren’t able to provide for their companion pets, then many of these pets will have to be surrendered and seeing as they’re senior themselves, are less likely to get adopted.”
Over the last year alone, Sonya and her team of volunteers have delivered 1,000 pet care packages to vulnerable seniors with companion pets living in assisted living facilities throughout the Valley.
She works with other nonprofits to identify individuals or facilities in need.
The demand is so great, she now has a number of them on a waitlist.
“They give me joy, they wake me up in the morning, they want hugs, they go pet me, pet me,” said Carol Huggins.
Carol has two cats and lives on a fixed income inside Olive Grove Assisted Living.
Like many seniors, especially during the pandemic, avoiding the feeling of loneliness and isolation was difficult. Her kitty sunshine and his unconditional love, are the perfect cure.
“We get very little a month to live on and I’m so thankful that I don’t have to do without because of Sonya,” said Carol.
The Xavier sophomore getting the attention of local businesses ready and willing to hand over money to keep her mission of giving on track.
But it isn’t easy, she’s applied and received grants and even given her own birthday money towards furthering her cause.
Not only is she hoping to raise more funds but encourages other kids her age to reach out and volunteer to assist with drop-offs.
“Senior citizens treat their companion pets like they’re their family, and they are. So, to be able to provide pet supplies to senior citizens with no cost to make sure they can keep members of their family is such a meaningful cause,” said Sonya.
Something that for us Monday, was easy to see as those living at Olive Grove rushed to thank her for the kindness she continues to deliver. If you’d like to get involved with Grandpaws Pantry, you can visit their website.
This story was first reported by Cameron Polom at KNXV in Phoenix, Arizona.