University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine student Abbie Knudsen received the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association’s William A. Wolff Volunteerism Award at the 2021 MVMA Convention held Jan. 21-24. Knudsen, a native of St. Charles, Missouri, was chosen for this award because of her work in setting up a pet food bank in Columbia during the COVID-19 pandemic. “When COVID-19 emerged, it quickly became clear that there would be far-reaching negative impacts on people and their pets,” said Knudsen. “Not only were we able to assist local families in the Columbia area, but we also distributed food to other organizations across the state so they could also assist their local communities.”
Knudsen, who obtained her bachelor’s degree at Drury University and master’s degree at Missouri State University, says with so many families struggling to make ends meet, she found that this food bank could provide some financial relief to those families who needed to feed their pets. Multiple organizations came together to make this happen, including Greater Good, Central Missouri Humane Society, Boone County Fire Protection District, Boone County Office of Emergency Management, and many other individuals. “As the need for support in central Missouri became apparent, an inter-organizational collaboration emerged to help families get the pet food they needed,” she said. “Over 39,000 pounds of pet food were obtained and distributed to families in need from all over Missouri. The result was that hundreds of families were able to feed their pets and no longer had to worry if they would be able to afford to keep them.”
Catherine Vogelweid, DVM, a retired faculty member of the CVM and a previous MVMA William A. Wolff Volunteerism Award recipient, was one of the individuals who assisted Knudsen. Vogelweid said Knudsen spearheaded this donation effort and was the primary organizer. “This effort not only improved the welfare of pets, it also assisted food banks in conserving food for human consumption and minimized the stress that unemployed pet owners were experiencing because they no longer had sufficient financial resources to feed and care for their pets,” said Vogelweid.
For Knudsen, this was one of the most meaningful and rewarding projects she has had the opportunity to work on during her time at the CVM. “There’s nothing better than helping to keep a pet with the family that loves them,” she said. “During our pet food distributions to the community, I had the chance to meet many recipients of the food. They were wonderful, responsible pet guardians that had fallen on a hard time, and they were so grateful to have assistance. It wasn’t uncommon for a recipient to tear-up when thanking us for the food.”
Knudsen mentioned that she is grateful that the MVMA considers students to be eligible for this award, and the selection of a student recipient reinforces their commitment to recognize the contribution of young people to the field of veterinary medicine. Knudsen says while she is proud to have received this award, she is excited about the current state of the veterinary profession. “We’ve arrived at an exhilarating time in animal welfare and veterinary medicine where we’re starting to build innovative solutions to ensure that families have access to the veterinary care, behavior support, and other pet-related resources that they need,” said Knudsen. “I’m proud to be surrounded by veterinary professionals that are recognizing the needs of their communities and committing themselves to finding comprehensive solutions to help make our world a better place for animals.”
By Nick Childress