ZEPHYRHILLS — Every year during the holidays, there are toy drives for needy children and food drives for hungry families and individuals. Soup kitchens serve the homeless, and people donate coats, shoes and other warm clothes for those who need them.
Ada and John Marr want to extend the goodwill of the season to another vulnerable group this year: pets in need.
To combat hunger among local animals whose owners have fallen on tough times, Ada created Food 4 Furry Friends, a pet food drive in the couple's business, the Printing Zone. The kibble that is collected will go to local animal shelters and any pet owners who ask for assistance.
John built a cardboard doghouse for donations, and the couple have begun spreading the word about the drive to area veterinarian offices and nearby businesses.
Ada said the idea came to her when she rescued her newest Yorkie terrier, Gilligan. She adopted him from Central Florida Small Dog Rescue after he'd been found wandering the streets, starving and not neutered. Because of him, she decided to make a larger impact on the lives of animals in need.
Ada said the desire to help animals runs in her family.
"My mom always rescued dogs and little strays," she said. "In her memory, I wanted to follow in her footsteps."
John said the food drive is a novel idea and wants to get as many people on board as possible. "This is brand new, something no one else has done," he said. "We are sending out a challenge to all the other people in the area, so they do the same thing."
John said he will send instructions on how to make a cardboard doghouse collection box to anyone who is interested. There are also fliers the couple have printed for information about the food drive.
John said he hopes people in the area — especially retirees — will empathize with the cause.
"It's usually just the husband and wife," John said of the retired couples, "and the pet is their baby to replace their children."
John and Ada hope the collection will become a food bank that lasts year-round. John is optimistic it will make a difference.
"Obviously it's going to have a substantial impact," he said. "It will if someone's going to take the time to do it."
For the Marrs, this kind of giving is more a lifestyle statement than a seasonal one.
"We go by the philosophy that whatever you give will come back to you somewhere down the road," John said.