BATH — Carolyn Lockwood was sitting in her house earlier this year when she had an epiphany. And that epiphany led her to where she is now: Running a nonprofit organization that helps people in need feed their pets.

Lockwood, a former Bath councilor, former director of Main Street Bath and former designer at Bath Iron Works, started Dogwill, Inc., in February to help people “love their best friends.”

The 501(c)(3) organization operates on Tuesday and Thursday evenings at the Bath Area Food Pantry on Congress Avenue and has served hundreds of families in its first few months of operation.

“I started by asking if I could distribute toys and treats for dogs,” Lockwood said during an interview last week.

Lockwood began spreading the word about Dogwill on Facebook and put a large deck box outside her home on High Street to take donations. She said she can’t believe sometimes how much people drop off and donate, and she is appreciative to everybody who’s helped so far.

Aside from the donations from the public, Wags and Whiskers in downtown Bath has been a big supporter of Lockwood’s efforts.

Regan Reed, co-owner of the boutique pet store, said Lockwood is providing a much-needed service to the community, and she said she hopes it continues to grow.

“It’s an awesome idea, and she’s trying to cater to what people want for their individual pets, and I think that makes her stand out,” Reed said.

Reed said it must be a big relief for pet owners who come to the food bank to know that there will also be a variety of different food options for their beloved animals.

The food pantry in Bath is open just two days a week, so Lockwood said she’s been having conversations with other towns in the area because there are people all over the Midcoast who are not only struggling to feed themselves, but to feed their pets.

Kim Gates, executive director of the Bath Area Food Pantry, at 150 Congress Ave., said having Dogwill at the food pantry is serving the community in many ways.

Gates said a lot of times, food pantry clients would use some of the food they receive for their families to feed their pets, which isn’t a good thing because dogs and cats shouldn’t be fed a steady diet of human food.

But now that Lockwood has all different kinds of pet food and toys and other things pets need, everybody is getting served.

“(Carolyn) looked for a hole and she filled it,” Gates said. “I don’t have the funds to do what she’s doing on this level, and I certainly don’t have the manpower.”

When Lockwood began operating her service, Gates stopped buying pet food, which gave the food bank additional money to supply food for people.

The Dogwill Facebook page is continuously updated to give people an idea of what the organization is doing and what items are needed. Right now, Lockwood said cat litter, dog biscuits and gallon-sized Ziploc storage bags are a priority, and money, of course, is always a welcomed donation. She also set up an Amazon wish list.

“We still want toys and treats, but the food is what people have difficulty affording because a lot of it can be pretty expensive,” Lockwood said.

The majority of the clients of the Bath Area Food Bank have pets, so Lockwood said the partnership makes sense for everybody. Instead of someone having to go to the food pantry to get their food and then to another location to get support for their pets, everything is all in one place.

What started as a small operation with just a little wooden folding table has turned into a charity organization that has multiple tables at the Bath Area Food Bank and plans on potentially expanding throughout the Midcoast. The food bank even had to find more rolling carts for all the pet food and supplies.

It has all happened a lot faster than Lockwood expected, but she isn’t complaining.

“We’ve got cat toys, dog toys, poop bags, big dog food and little dog food,” Lockwood said. “A lot of it people are just giving out of the goodness of their hearts.”

Annie Wilson said her sister, who lives in Bath, recommended Dogwill when her golden retriever Nancy died unexpectedly last month. There was a lot of leftover food, treats, toys and other things that plenty of people out there could use.

“What Carolyn is doing is providing people in need with a service, and she’s also giving people who’ve lost a pet a way to keep their memory alive by donating things their pet loved,” Wilson said. “This type of charity work should be commended.”

Lockwood said she’s used social media to inform everyone about Dogwill since she first had the idea back in February. She said there are people who receive assistance from the food bank who’ve told her that their pets mean so much to them and how they are appreciative of the help Dogwill is providing.

It’s all a part of Lockwood’s desire to help people. And to help people spoil their pets.

Donations may be left in or on the deck box at 833 High St. Tax deductible contributions can be mailed to Dogwill, P.O. Box 772, Bath, ME 04530.

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