What is Volunteerism? Or, do you deserve to be paid for what you do? ~
We each have our own definition of volunteerism. I will not begrudge anyone their own definition. I will certainly not use this post to try to define each and every way of volunteering one’s time, money and other kinds of resources. I will, however explain to you what my husband, George and I do to define our kind of “volunteerism.”
Back in 2001 we began taking in birds, some we purchased, some were given to us when people found themselves at their last straw and didn’t know what to do to help their beloved companions who were destroying their feathers. We no longer buy birds. Let’s just leave that topic lay there; that requires an entirely different blog post.
We soon realized that the commercial food that was currently on the market didn’t do what the birds needed it to do for them to thrive. Enter our own desire to begin formulating food for our own flock, especially birds who engaged in feather destruction. We thought that while we were at it we may as well begin developing foods for all of the common species we were keeping as companion birds in our home. We set out to do so.
Soon people were asking us to begin making food for their birds too. You know how these kinds of stories go. One thing leads to another and before you know it you have a problem much bigger than yourself.
In order to supply many, many people we had to form a business, a legal business. Most states don’t allow a person to sell pet foods legally without a business license and a pet food license. Oh yeah, there are some still making concoctions in their kitchens and selling without licenses, but if they get caught they can get fined – hefty fines too. Then there are those supplying recipes to the avian community saying they have “run their concoctions through a “nutritional calculator” and to the best of their knowledge their recipes are nutritionally well-rounded and complete.” A pet food producer is required, not given a choice to laboratory test their foods before releasing them for sale to the public. They are required to display this guaranteed analysis both on their website and on each package of food that goes out their door. For good reason too, without actually testing foods, not just running the ingredients through a calculator there is no way to know the actual levels of each, individual nutrient within the guaranteed analysis; it’s nothing more than a guessing game. “A diverse variety” of ingredients supplied to your bird does nothing more than make you feel emotionally good. When you can look at the guaranteed analysis on the back of the package along with ingredients you can actually pronounce and research to find they are foods your bird would eat in their wild habitats – then you know you have a food worth feeding to an EXOTIC parrot! That was and is still our mission today.
As you can plainly see when we began producing our foods it wasn’t a game, a hobby or just something to pass all of the time we had on our hands, lol. <wink> We had to take this seriously or not do it all. We worked at formulations for two solid years and then we legally obtained our business licenses at the end of 2003. We literally sunk over $200,000.00 into our business during the first two years and by the end of the third year the amount was too obscene to even mention. Now, 13 years later that amount has risen well over the millions. Our CPA thinks we have fallen off our rockers and has asked us when we are going to give up and throw in the towel. While it is true we took a 3-year hiatus due to my own health right after my Father-in-law died – (we cared for him in our home for 5 years while he declined from leukemia and dementia with no help from our family) – we still wanted to continue with our passion of “feeding birds really, really well” when, and or if my health returned. It did, and now we are back going strong. Even after George’s scare last year ending in him having open heart surgery, due to a genetic deformity we didn’t even know he had, he has fully recovered and going stronger than ever!
Long story, short – people wanted us to go into business so they could have access to our foods. I read just today that some people don’t trust my articles because, get this “She sells bird food products, so her articles are slanted.” What an irony.
The truth of the matter, George and I have never, NEVER taken a penny out of our business for us to live on. If only people who make judgements would do their research before making those judgements.
No, instead George and I use the small amount of profits earned from the business to care for the permanent residents in our Providence Exotic Bird Sanctuary, further research and laboratory testing of the foods we sell to the avian community, funding for our Community Project Fund that helps pay vet bills for our Customers, pay for food for some of our customers who are experiencing extreme financial hardship, and donations to other avian rescues and sanctuaries – we donated our van just last week to a canine rescue. It left us with one vehicle. –No, we are not hurting financially, but we are not rich either. George is now semi-retired; we hope he can fully retire soon so we can keep up with bird food production. I am legally disabled. We literally live on a fixed income. George works 7 days a week, 365 days a year (often 17 hours a day) making bird food for our customers and caring for our flock. I do the best I can keeping up with blog posts, writing (I published my avian nutrition book last year – from which we made NO profit, it was a labor of love), answering emails and questions about avian nutrition, doing consultations at no charge, processing orders, and shipping those orders, along with formulating diets and analyzing laboratory tests. Again, we take no pay from our business. We have not had a vacation since our honeymoon in 1999. Seriously, we’ve just been too busy.
I find it ironic that my articles are judged harshly simply for charging for our products, even though we personally do not financially benefit from our business.
Just this week along I have been bullied by people who have never formulated and laboratory tested a full daily diet ever in their lifetime. I have been told that I and my diets are dangerous. I have been told that I lack credibility simply because I have no degree. (AZ, the state I live in does not require a nutritionist to have any kind of certification) Yet, people who have never formulated a daily diet in their life, but mix concoctions in their kitchen every day without ever testing them for any kind of balance hurl condemnation at me. While I have formulated, developed, laboratory-tested by an independent third party and sold species specific diets feeding thousands of companion birds since 2003. Our company was the first to bring back raw foods, the first to introduce species-specific foods, the first to introduce alfalfa as the main base ingredient in exotic bird diets and more.
Let this be known; I have been weathering this kind of bullying since 2001 and I have forged ahead for the good health of companion exotic birds. I intend to continue forging ahead because many, many bird-lovers have found their birds are thriving due to the research I have presented. I will continue until the day my genetic blood disorder kills me – or something/someone else does. Name-calling has no effect on me. I will not be deterred. The only thing that has an effect on me is the health of these magnificent creatures. I have pledged my heart and soul to the survival of their species. I volunteer my life.
To ALL of you who volunteer: Tune in to your better angels. Tune out from all of the rhetoric. You know deep within you what is right, what is wrong. Each of you give of something valuable to YOU. No price can be placed on what you give. Those who point fingers at the good you do only do so for the lack of the good they see in themselves. Truth is, we all have good within ourselves; it takes energy and courage to act upon it. Bravery in volunteerism is the ability to accept both compliments and criticisms with much humility. It’s okay to state your positions on both with poise, grace and a firm stand. It’s never okay to lower yourself to the level of the bully.
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