A lifelong love of dogs and a desire to help others led Jen Bennett ’84 to create a safety net for families struggling to feed their beloved pets
A 1984 Williston grad, Jen Bennett is the founder and Vice President of PAWSitive Pantry, a Vermont-based nonprofit whose mission is to serve as a safety net for families struggling economically to provide their pets with food. Through a partnership with the Vermont Foodbank, PAWSitive Pantry delivers to about 80 pantries across Vermont; last year the organization provided 51,000 pounds of food, which translated to about 151,000 meals for pets. Since starting in 2009, Bennett’s group has delivered 450,000 pounds of pet food. The group just announced this year that it is expanding into Massachusetts as well.
And recently, PAWSitive Pantry partnered with BarkBox, a subscription pet supply company, which donated the profits from their “Bernie Paw Warmers” toy —designed to look like the famous mittens Bernie Sanders wore to President Biden’s inauguration—to Bennett’s group.
An important element of PAWSitive Pantry is its fundraising efforts: Though they, like everyone, were impacted by COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings, they do have an upcoming event on the books, their annual dog parade at Sugarbush Resort, set for July 4.
Bennett, who left a graphic design career in Boston in 2008 to take advantage of Vermont skiing, lives in the Mad River Valley with Rumble, a 14-year-old goldendoodle (that’s him in the photo at left!).Though it’s perhaps a tendency to look back, to romanticize the early hardships of a struggling company striving for success, Bennett says PAWSitive’s story doesn’t fit the mold. It was, by virtue of its mission, a smooth start, with everyone focused on the ultimate goal: feeding pets.
Aside from lots of driving and a “bare bones” approach that saw Bennett and a group of volunteers traveling all over Vermont, “loading up my car with as much food as I could put in,” PAWSitive Pantry’s success reflects the beauty and simplicity of its mission.
“It’s a really simple concept. It’s not rocket science,” she says. “As long as you have the hands and people willing to help you out, it’s a pretty easy project to take on.
Each month, PAWSitive Pantry provides roughly 4,500 dog meals and 8,100 cat meals in Vermont. To find out more or to donate, visit pawsitivepantry.org.