|Jim C. with Lois the great horned owl.|
"When I was approaching retirement age I started looking for things that I could “retire to” instead of just “retiring from” more than four decades of employment. I am one who enjoys the natural world so The Raptor Center (TRC) was an early addition to my list of possibilities and I arranged for an interview with Vivian, who was then TRC’s volunteer coordinator.
After a lengthy discussion of my interests and reasons for looking at TRC, Vivian suggested that I might want to volunteer with their education department. That sounded interesting but I replied that I did not feel qualified for that work. She replied “That is a problem we know how to solve!” Vivian was right … TRC staff are nothing if not educators and many of the volunteers are fountains of knowledge about all parts of the natural world we share.
So began a five year journey that I hope will continue for many more years. I have learned so much and it is immensely satisfying to share our group of more than thirty education birds to help others learn about the interconnections between raptors and the rest of the natural world and hopefully understand that such connections exist between all living things, including ourselves.
Then came a day when one of the TRC staff asked if I might be interested in another activity to help TRC … Recycling for Raptors (R4R), a program which collects empty printer ink cartridges and sells them to business that refill them. To be honest, my first thought was “What’s the fun in that?” But The Raptor Center receives a very small percentage of its annual budget, mostly covering instructional services, from the University of Minnesota/College of Veterinary Medicine. Our education and rehabilitation efforts are funded primarily by philanthropy, fees for services and Recycling for Raptors (R4R). Over 12 years, R4R has brought in $165,000 to the Raptor Center and provided a second life to 235,000 ink cartridges that otherwise were destined for a permanent home in a landfill. The importance of that extra income was driven home recently when I learned that the refrigerator we use for the education birds’ food was acquired from Craigslist and that the clinic refrigerator’s door didn’t stay closed without the help of some sort of improvised fastening system!
R4R benefits from companies that save their empty cartridges and also encourage their employees to bring in their own spent cartridges. We also receive cartridges from a number of retail stores and other locations that host collection boxes where the public can drop off their cartridges. You can find information about our public drop off site here.
I spend only 2-3 hours each month sorting cartridges and half a day three times a year to drive a 70 mile circuit to gather cartridges from a portion of the collection sites. That is a small price to pay to help support something that gives me hundreds of hours of pleasure each year."