Jack Dickens, a semi-retired painter, doesn’t consider himself anything more than a guy doing the right thing but to the people and animals he delivers much-needed pet food to, he’s an angel.
When the pandemic hit and the lockdown shuttered many businesses, it also took down many volunteer services that low-income and senior citizens rely upon for their daily life.
For many shut-ins, who consider their pets nothing less than family, Dickens’ deliveries are a shining beacon of hope during one of the nation’s darkest times.
Back in October, Dickens didn’t plan to become a local hero when he made the innocuous decision to purchase some cat food at a discounted price with the intent to share it with whoever might need it, but fate had different plans.
Dickens shared, “There was a guy on Facebook that was selling cases of cat food for 10 bucks, and I thought, well, I’m gonna go out and buy 10 of them, and then placed an ad on social media on Facebook, to see if there was any low income seniors that needed help to feed their animals. I did that for about a month and a half, maybe two months, and then one of my people that donate to me, asked, would you ever consider doing it for dogs?”
For Dickens the answer was easy — a resounding yes. A local merchant, along with Tractor Supply, agreed to sell Dickens their torn bags for 90 percent off and he transitioned to dry food only so he could feed more animals for the same amount of money, which had been coming directly out Dickens’ pocket.
What started as a thought to provide a helping hand with a little extra pet food turned into an impromptu delivery service with 74 cats and 31 dogs on his newfound route.
And there’s no end in sight to the need.
Currently, Dickens only services the Oakdale area but he’s already received urgent calls from throughout the county as people struggle to get their animals fed.
“You know, you read and hear the news and read the paper and you know everybody’s struggling and for a lot of these low-income senior citizens, it’s either they feed themselves or they feed their animals,” Dickens said. “And this way it takes that problem out of the equation for them. They can have their food, and their animals are taken care of. They don’t have to worry about it, because that’s all these people have. Their animals, that’s their life support.”
Lupe Marin, an 80-year-old Oakdale resident on a fixed income and no option for transportation, looks at Dickens as a hero.
“When you live on Social Security, low income, you know, $1,300 a month, this comes in good. I don’t have to spend an extra $20 or $25 for cat food and all of that, you know,” Marin said.
With two dogs and four cats, Marin considers her pets as dear to her as her children. “To me, they are my only company because I live alone. And to me, it’s more than just company. It keeps me busy cleaning out their room and all of that; it keeps me busy, otherwise I just sit.”
Marin, looking to Dickens with open appreciation, said, “He’s amazing.”
Karissa Anderson and Tammy Richards, both recipients of a pet food donation every other week, agreed.
“With all the bad that is going on out there, there is still a lot of really, really good people around,” Richards said.
Anderson echoed the sentiment, sharing, “It’s been amazing and so helpful. My dog loves it, my kitty loves it and they love seeing him. It’s just all around amazing. What an awesome man.”
Anderson, who suffers from a medical condition, can’t carry heavy bags of dog food due to her condition, and considers Dickens a godsend. “I’m so grateful that Jack brings the stuff to us.”
Dickens doesn’t do it for the praise or the recognition; he just wants to help people out in any way he can manage because the level of suffering happening beneath the radar is staggering.
“I’ll tell you,” Dickens said, “What brings me to tears sometimes, I go to some of these porches, it’s crazy. I did turkeys on Thanksgiving for some of the low-income people and I had one lady, she had one dollar in her pocket and bank account, no food. So, I got on social media and sent a request out to all the beautiful Oakdale people — and I mean, this town has got some citizens — and I had a carload of food that night for her. Me and her just sat on her porch and just cried.”
The silent cry for help reached the right ears in Dickens because he’s already set up a website to coordinate donations and frequently posts on social media looking for anyone who might be slipping through the cracks.
The need is great but as Dickens has shown, all it takes is one big heart to get the ball rolling in the right direction.
For now, it’s appreciative elbow bumps and doggie kisses but for Dickens, it’s more than enough.
“You know, it’s good karma … and I’m stocking up on it,” Dickens joked. “We can all use a little karma in the bank.”
For more information, or anyone looking to donate — pet food or cash — they can go to www.petfooddude.com.