The consequences of the pandemic lead a San Marcos student to organize a pet food drive | School zone

Posted on April 25, 2022
| 9:02 a.m.

Ava Vasquez organized a pet food drive at Vieja Valley Elementary School.
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Ava Vasquez organized a pet food drive at Vieja Valley Elementary School. (Photograph by WinkFace)

Since the pandemic began, CARE4Paws has distributed 850,000 pounds of pet food to families in need through its mobile veterinary clinic and regular community events. While life is returning to normal for many area residents, thousands of families in Santa Barbara County are still struggling to pay their rent and bills, not to mention feed their pets.

To help alleviate this reality, CARE4Paws volunteer Ava Vasquez, a freshman at San Marcos High School, organized a pet food drive at her former elementary school, Vieja Valley Elementary School in the Hope School District of Saint Barbara.

“During the pandemic, I have volunteered at the CARE4Paws mobile veterinary clinic, handing out pet food,” Vasquez said. “I see how appreciative families are for food, so I thought it would be a really good project to get other students involved in helping families that need pet food.”

Over the past month, Vasquez has worked directly with Vieja Valley teachers to get all students involved. He made sure that students took home flyers about the drive and that all 15 classrooms in the school had their own large donation boxes, donated by Home Depot in Lompoc.

Students raised 400 pounds of pet food in one week!

“We couldn’t be more grateful to Ava and the generosity of the students, parents and teachers of Vieja Valley Elementary,” said Wendy Domanski, CARE4Paws volunteer and community programs coordinator, who helped Vásquez prepare for the campaign.

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“We are also incredibly grateful to our business and nonprofit partners for joining forces to support those in need,” Domanski said. “Not to mention the thousands of individual donors who have contributed food and funds to help other members of the community.”

Because when people live in poverty, so do their pets, CARE4Paws has worked for the past 12 years to support low-income, elderly, disabled and homeless community members by providing access to critical services, such as veterinary care, spays and neuters and pet food.

Since the pandemic began, the nonprofit has tripled the number of pet families it supports annually to more than 20,000.

In 2021, CARE4Paws helped 10,000 dogs and cats with services through its Mobile Community Medicine & Spay/Neuter Outreach program. This year, it has expanded its mobile clinic services to San Luis Obispo County through a project called Cut and chip SLOin collaboration with the County’s Animals in Need Fund and Animal Shelter Adoption Partners (ASAP).

“Thank you, CARE4Paws, for helping all these animals in our community and for helping me make this food drive a reality,” said Vásquez, who hopes other students will follow suit and organize donation drives at their schools.

For more information on CARE4Paws pet food distribution services, visit To learn more about CARE4Paws, visit