RICHMOND — Abandoned by the side of a road outside Seoul, South Korea, when she was not even 4 years old, Launi Perrault has a deep and personal understanding of what it’s like to be left behind by those you love. Now Perrault is donating her time and professional expertise to Maggie’s Pet Pantry, a Richmond nonprofit that gives away pet food to people in need so they don’t have to abandon their companion animals.

“I’d been left on the side of the road,” Perrault said. “I ended up in an orphanage. I was an older child, and a girl, so everything wasn’t great for me. It was a different culture and society, and I was older, so the chances of me getting adopted were pretty slim.”

Perrault’s life changed when she was adopted by an American couple who brought her to Cape Cod, where she grew up.

A geriatric housing consultant who works with patients and families to adapt patients’ homes when they are discharged from hospitals and rehabilitation facilities, Perrault works in San Francisco and splits her time between California and Charlestown, R.I., although these days, she is remaining in Rhode Island.

“I work in the geriatric community, so I’ve seen a lot of folks, the bond that they have with their pets is amazing," she said. "Sometimes along the way, they develop dementia or they don’t have the means or they’re on a fixed income, and it just breaks my heart and their hearts when they are not able to care and provide for their pets ... Right now, a lot of people are losing their jobs and life is changing and we are sheltering in place, and having your buddy is really important for mental health.”

As she spent more time in Charlestown, Perrault began looking for ways to help people and their pets. When she connected with Carol Terranova of Maggie’s Pet Pantry, she knew she wanted to get involved. 

“With Maggie’s, you can just drive up, have a quick chitchat with the nicest woman ever and then pick up food for your cat and your dog,” she said. “There’s no questions asked. It’s just all love for animals."

Founded about 10 years ago, the pet pantry on Buttonwoods Road in Richmond donates pet food, accessories and toys to anyone who needs them.

A one-woman labor of love, the pet pantry is named for Maggie, Terranova’s beloved yellow lab who died at the age of 15. Terranova got the idea for starting the nonprofit after seeing a community Thanksgiving food drive and wondering whether anything was being done to collect food for families’ pets.

“We did this originally because a lot of older people who have pets. That’s the only thing they have to keep them sane, and we wanted to do something so they didn’t have to give up their animals to the shelters, and we could help feed them, and that way, keep them in their homes,” she said. “I wanted to do something to honor my dog because she was such a great dog. She was a therapy dog … I got her from the Hopkinton shelter.” 

Perrault, who is tech savvy, visited the pet pantry in October and said she wanted to help. She will be helping Terranova broaden her public outreach, particularly her online presence.

“I discussed helping her any way that I could with expanding her brand and perhaps touching more people online, through social media and ramping up some of the donations that way,” Perrault said. “I think a lot of folks don’t even know that it exists when they need the assistance.”

Terranova said she expected more people to come to the pet pantry during the last few months, but they seem to be staying at home.

“I thought we would be getting more people because of the economics and everything but I think people are staying home and they’re not going out as much, even to the pet pantry,” she said. “We have a Facebook page and I tell people that we are open and there is no problem social distancing. We are in a shed next to the public works in Richmond, and they can stay in their car, so that’s not a problem. We want to get the word out that we are open.”

For more information on Maggie’s Pet Pantry’s, visit maggiespetpantry.com.

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