Cedar Rapids AniMeals finds new home for pet food

Developer Steve Emerson providing warehouse storage space

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CEDAR RAPIDS — Help is on the way for a Cedar Rapids-based organization that distributes pet food to those in need.

Cedar Rapids AniMeals announced this month it needed a new storage space for its thousands of pounds of pet food, toys and treats that it gives away to the area’s elderly, disabled and others needing assistance caring for their pets.

Cedar Rapids developer Steve Emerson heard of the need and is donating some empty warehouse space on G Avenue and Ellis Boulevard NW for AniMeals to use.

“The program is pretty commendable,” said Emerson, president of Aspect architecture:design. He added he’s happy to support the organization’s mission the best way he can. He said he has “plenty of facilities that have shop space,” so he “should be able to house them permanently.”

AniMeals is to share the space with Follies, a vaudeville-style theater organization that is storing some of its set equipment in the building, Emerson said.

With 1,800 square feet of available space, Emerson said space shouldn’t be an issue.

Founded in 2000, AniMeals has been storing its inventory in a dilapidated barn off Mount Vernon Road in Cedar Rapids. They’ve been in that space since 2008 after the flood chased the group from its original downtown location.

On Sept. 12, AniMeals volunteers were told they had just 60 days to find a new home because the barn is slated to be torn down.

Barn owner Shawn Graham said the structure needs more than $30,000 in repairs and it isn’t worth the money. He said he didn’t want the barn “falling down and anybody getting hurt.”

AniMeals volunteers worried that without a new storage space, they may have needed to close up shop. Heidi Karr, the organization’s president, feared doing so would impact not only the group’s 300-plus clients — those who receive social security, disability or are referred by a caseworker to qualify for the program — but area shelters, which may have seen an influx of animals due to owners not being able to care for their pets.

Karr called the new warehouse space, which is climate controlled, “a huge step up in our world.”

AniMeals officials plan to move in on Oct. 8 and may need assistance moving their inventory. Karr plans to put out a call for help through Facebook.

Those interested in helping can also call (319) 365-6201 or send email to volunteers@cranimeals.org.

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