1997-2017 -- Still Having a Hoot After 20 Years!
Twenty years ago next May I made the decision to start an environmental education nonprofit organization. I'd volunteered and worked at the Ohio Wildlife Center in wildlife rehabilitation and then sat on the Columbus Audubon Society Board concentrating on and conducting environmental education programs. At the end of my board term with CAS, I was at a fork in the road and made the decision to concentrate on the education aspect utilizing permanently injured, therefore non-releasable, animals. That's when Ohio Nature Education
was born. Together with Phyllis Gubanc and Lisa Ohlinger, I set about getting incorporated and applying for a 501(c)(3) status and we were off! Phyllis is still involved by the way, and Lisa attended one of our programs in Muskingum County last Spring and had an opportunity
to see how far we've come since our inception.
3,753 Programs Conducted
579,667 People Reached
20 Counties Served
We started out with one Red tailed hawk (Zeus) and one Great horned owl (our first Hibou) and now provide a permanent home to more than 50 wild animals. Our first year we conducted a little over 100 programs. We peaked in 2008 with 356 programs. That number went down significantly with the economic downturn, but we now average between 175-225 programs a year. We travel all over Ohio, having conducted programs in more than 20 counties for preschool-aged children to senior citizens, from inner city to private schools, for groups as small as five participants all the way up to 1100 Boy Scouts at Burr Oak. (Oy!) One of our customers goes back to my days at the Ohio Wildlife Center (Margaret Gramman Witten), another to my days at Columbus Audubon (Greensview Elementary). We appreciate all of the customers who support us by booking us year after year, who invite us into their classrooms, scout meetings, and libraries to deliver our message and who encourage good stewardship of our planet. Our mission and core values have remained the same: we strive to provide entertaining programs that encourage people to appreciate our natural world and to impact wildlife in a positive way. Because a high percentage of our programs are for children and families, I am always thrilled to speak to adult groups, but it's the kids who give me the most encouragement. Their knowledge of nature simply blows me away, and their questions and comments keep me on my toes and warm my heart. The adults need some work, however. I was recently asked, for example, if a Screech owl was a flying squirrel and a flying squirrel a monkey. True story and proof that we need to keep working :)
Our volunteers continue to be one of our greatest assets. I’ll admit that, in the beginning, I was opposed to working with high school students, but they have turned out to be the gems of the organization. Always sad to see them head off to college, but some return to
us occasionally, even if for a short time. Of course we are proud to be raising the future generation of biologists, teachers, and environmental educators. We’ve had some great people involved over the years but those that stand out for me are: Dani Jones, who is at OSU studying Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife; Maria Dellapina who is pursuing a Masters at Antioch College in Environmental Education; Kyle Davis who is studying Ornithology at Ohio Wesleyan; and Kandace Glanville who is also studying Forestry, Fisheries and Wildlife at
OSU. They are the future, and we are proud to have played even a small part in their journey.
We plan to have a small 20 Year celebration sometime in May of 2017 and will keep you posted as soon as we have details.
Meanwhile, we are doing what we normally do this time of year - getting all enclosures spruced up and winterized. Some of our enclosures are showing signs of aging and will need to be replaced in the spring. Please let us know if you know someone who works in the construction industry and who can offer us donations of lumber, pea gravel, etc. or, perhaps, someone who would be willing to sponsor an enclosure.
As always you can support us by making a monetary donation, becoming a member, sponsoring one of our animals through our Adopt-An-Animal Program, designating us as your Kroger Community Reward recipient, through Amazon Smile, or by purchasing a program for your favorite classroom, scout troop or garden club. Like every year, you can make purchases on our behalf at Wild Birds Unlimited in Westerville and on Broad Street in Columbus during the holidays. And come see us at Half Price Books, Lane Avenue from December 10-24.
We thank all of our donors, sponsors, customers, and volunteers for their support over the last twenty years. We could not have done it without you! Here’s to the next twenty years!