Pet food charity earns recognition for its work – Founder gets a spot on wine label
By Helena Oliviero/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
As the owner of a construction company, Tom Wargo wanted happy clients — and happy pets, too.
Back in the late 1990s, the man with a soft spot for animals toted dog and cat treats with him on remodeling and repair jobs.
But after Wargo got calls from a church to help elderly women with home repairs, what he saw broke his heart: home-bound women sharing their noontime Meals on Wheels food with their pets.
“There was this sweet old lady and she was feeding a feral cat, and that cat was her only friend, giving her reason to get up in the morning and giving her a reason to live,” Wargo said. “How do you say if you can’t afford that cat, tough. Call animal control and they will pick up that cat and put it down.”
In 1997, Wargo started building a charity to feed needy pets — Daffy’s Pet Soup Kitchen. In the beginning, he handed out free cat and dog food from his truck — about 40,000 pounds of pet food a year. By 2008, he secured a warehouse in Lawrenceville for his nonprofit to store the food, and he started doling out hundreds of thousands of pounds of cat and dog food. Last year, Daffy’s, considered the largest pet food bank in the state, gave away just over 800,000 pounds of dog and cat food.
Other smaller organizations that provide free pet food include Pet Buddies Food Pantry in Woodstock.
The good work of Daffy’s captured the attention of Barefoot Wine. Daffy’s, one of seven nonprofits across the country being celebrated by the winemaker, graces the label of the winemaker’s new Impression Red Blend wine label. The special bottles of wine featuring the seven organizations started hitting shelves this month. Barefoot also made a donation of $10,000 to Daffy’s.
“Some people would say they would rather help people instead of animals,” Wargo said. “But we are helping people. People would go home and cook whatever little they had and give it to their pets. The people were malnourished, and the pets were, too.”
Wargo gets donated food from a variety of places, including collection bins at Petco stores, veterinarian offices, pet grooming shops and other businesses.
Tom Crook of Lawrenceville started getting help from Daffy’s about five years ago. Crook, who worked in construction, had suffered a string of setbacks after undergoing neck surgery. The economic downfall made jobs scarce. And then, his wife lost her job. Crook said he was skipping his medication so he would have money to buy pet food for his beloved cat, Princess, who recently passed away, and his big Newfoundland mix dog, Bear.
“He’s always been there for us,” said Crook, who now works as a handyman and volunteers at Daffy’s, recently building shelving for the warehouse. “He will do anything he can to help.”
To get the food, pet owners must adhere to some strict pantry rules, which include the following: The pets must be spayed or neutered within 45 days if they haven’t been already, the pets must get annual rabies shots, and the pet owners are required to do five hours of community service a month at Daffy’s or any another charity, which includes everything from churches to schools to Girl Scouts.
Once pet owners qualify for the program, they can go once a week for pet food for up to two pets. Wargo said many of his clients include seniors, war veterans and the disabled. Some clients receive the pet food for only a few months while looking for work, while others are longer-term clients.
When people arrive to pick up the pet food, they hand over a canvas bag with a number on it. Volunteers check the number to make sure they still qualify for the program, and they use a scale to give a varying amount of food depending on the weight of the animal. (All of the dry food is mixed together and stored in huge tubs.) Volunteers also give away canned food and, depending on availability, pet treats and toys.
Corrdelia Joseph of Doraville learned about Daffy’s just a few months ago — when she was at DeKalb County Animal Services and Enforcement to give up her dog.
“I was sobbing,” said Joseph, who has three dogs. “But I had lost my job, lost my house and I couldn’t afford to take care of my dogs, so I brought my oldest dog, Tasia, to the shelter. I was crying so hard I could barely speak. And the woman wrote down ‘Daffy’s’ on a slip of paper, and he’s been helping me ever since.”
Joseph recently got a job and thinks she’ll only need assistance from Daffy’s for a few more months.
A few years back, Wargo struggled to cover the costs of the nonprofit and considered shuttering the organization. But he is now in better financial standing after moving to a new location in Lawrenceville and setting up a small pet supply store to help cover the nonprofit’s expenses. Besides the main location in Lawrenceville, Daffy’s has a mobile unit in Austell, and plans include expanding to several locations in metro Atlanta, including a mobile pet food bank in DeKalb County and north Fulton.
Wargo said he tries to pick up handyman jobs a couple of days a week to pay his bills. He draws no salary from Daffy’s, and his 2011 IRS Form 990 shows he received only $2,100 for mileage and other expense reimbursement. Wargo lives alone with his three rescue cats about a mile from the Daffy’s headquarters.
“People are really hurting financially,” Wargo said. “… We want to keep families and pets together.”
‘Soles of the Year’
Daffy’s Pet Soup Kitchen, led by Tom Wargo, is one of seven nonprofits across the country being celebrated by Barefoot Wine as part of a campaign called “Soles of the Year.” Wargo’s work with Daffy’s is featured on the winemaker’s new Impression Red Blend wine label, and it started hitting shelves this month. These limited edition wine bottles are scheduled to be available through the spring. The bottle of wine retails for $7 for a 750 milliliter bottle and $12 for a 1.5 liter bottle and is widely available at Kroger,, Wal-Mart or wherever wine is sold.
Daffy’s headquarters and main warehouse in Lawrenceville is open 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturdays, 134 S. Clayton St., Suite 104, Lawrenceville. 404-345-6821. (The retail pet supply store next at the same address is open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays; and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays.)
Watch this great little video that Barefoot created to promote Daffy’s:
This poor pup is Dillon. His family called us today pleading for help. They found Dillon starving and dehydrated at an elderly family member’s house. Dillon’s ‘dad’ had collapsed and lay unconscious until neighbors found him and called the
ambulance. In the chaos that followed, no one realized that Dillon was locked in the home without food or water for close to a week.
We rushed Dillon to The Village Vets of Lilburn/Stone Mountain (thank you Dr. Irish!) where Lindy spent much of her afternoon with this sweet boy. Dillon was infested with fleas and internal parasites. He was given sub-Q fluids, Capstar and Drontal, and tested for parvo (negative – thank goodness!). He is spending the night and getting some good ‘groceries’. We will see how he is in the morning before proceeding with more tests….
Dillon’s bill for today is $250. If just 25 (of our almost 3000 Facebook friends) could pitch in just $10, we’ll have this covered. Any extra funds will go toward the next vet care case – which, by the way, is a dog with a broken leg (got the call while at vet with Dillon). So much need out there….
Please help us help both Dillon and Marley (posted earlier). We can’t continue our life-saving work without your support! Bless you all.
We are in major need of financial donations. We do not want funding to limit the amount of help we can provide. Any donation, large or small is needed. We want to thank everyone for their responses to this terrible situation. If you have offered to volunteer or foster, we will be in touch with you soon. We need many people to help with fostering and volunteering, but we are still waiting on reports from areas and to get the right people with the right animals. I am going to NW Georgia Monday to get my own visual and assess the damage and the needs of the community myself. I am not willing to sit by and let these animals possible end up alone, homeless, or dead because of lack of funds or assistance. I will have a better understanding Monday of what and who is needed. As of now, we have an emergency grant request out at Petco to help with some of the needed supplies. Our biggest need for now is volunteers and financial. PLEASE DONATE NOW. THESE ANIMALS ARE SCARED AND ALONE AND FEEL THEY LOST THEIR FAMILIES. LETS MAKE THEIR LIVES A LITTLE BETTER AND GET THEM SOME FOOD AND SHELTER. KEEP POSTED
Emergency Financial Donations Needed.
Due to the storms, many animals have been displaced. Most organizations are dealing with loss of human life and property. We are helping the animals before its too late and they are forgotten. Please help by volunteering or donating today. We need assistance with both. Talked to counties heavily affected by storms and for the most part they are FULL of animals and have no room for anymore. We need to help these animals that are still out there with no where to go. Please keep us posted if you are in one of these areas so we can keep on top of the situation. We are working in Georgia to make a better environment for animals in these situations. Help us today. Become a donor or a volunteer. Thanks
We are already emailing local and state officials to help in this natural disaster. We will keep people up to date through this site and Facebook as to local rescues and shelters to help with peoples animals and pets in these times of need. Donations are always needed of food, blankets, pet supplies, crates, cleaning supplies, and of course monetary donations to help these displaced animals. During the Georgia floods we rescues over 100 animals and shipped over 25,000 lbs of food to needed areas. We are here to help. Help us if you can. Please donate online, mail checks to SOS Club PO Box 1640 Lilburn Ga. 30048, or donate supplies at any of our food drop off locations. Please bring larger donations to our Lawrenceville Branch. Contact Tom before any delivery to Lawrenceville. 678-725-4992. Thanks for helping these animals in need
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