Kelowna's Nicole Frey has always had a deep love for animals.
Now she’s the head of the Animal Food Bank, a non-profit organization she co-created with her husband to help people in need feed their animals and get them the care they need.
Turning her dream of helping animals into a reality started one day when she was downtown walking on Leon Avenue. She says she bumped into a beautiful dog named Odin when she decided to strike up a conversation with who she assumed was the dog's homeless owner.
“I asked him if I could pet his dog and we ended up having a very casual conversation … I went home wondering how I could help his dog, so I googled it,” explained Frey.
“I found out there wasn’t an animal food bank in Kelowna, so me and my husband thought we should start one. We talked about it, and two days later we launched.”
Officially off the ground back in December 2019, Frey has watched her organization go from a local non-profit to being something that helps animals and their owners all over western Canada.
The Animal Food Bank now has official locations in Kelowna, Vernon, Medicine Hat, Calgary, and Winnipeg. Those food banks are often able to reach out and help pets in need throughout surrounding communities, like Penticton and Osoyoos, for example.
“I really wanted to start an organization that did things differently, and really, really promotes collaboration. So, AFB was founded with collaboration, education and awareness. Those are our three pillars, and with that, we’ve done over 10,000 deliveries and 60,000 meals,” added Frey.
She says her clients love animals and are always super happy to see them whenever a delivery is made.
Frey tells Castanet the Animal Food Bank helps over 100 animals in Kelowna every week, and approximately 300 to 400 animals supported at their Winnipeg location. Demand has been growing in recent years.
“Success for the Animal Food Bank for me is driving us out of business. I would love for nobody to need us anymore,” she continued.
“So when we see numbers climbing, that’s the wrong way and we’re heading in the wrong direction. The dream is to understand why our clients need us, intervene, and do what we can to prevent the need.”
According to Frey, the work she has done over the past three-plus years has only proven there’s a need for animal food banks all over the world. She plans to continue expansion further east across Canada.
The goal right now is to grow into Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario by the end of 2023, and the rest of Canada and beyond by the end of 2024.
As AFB looks to expand, the organization is in need of volunteers in new cities who can help with things like storage and deliveries. If you’re interested in becoming a AFB volunteer, you can contact them through its website.