34 year old Chuck does not have to travel far from Orland Park to come volunteer! Since the summer of 2014 he has been coming out almost weekly to tend to the critters’ needs. Fortunately for us, Chuck found us on Google when looking for places to help out! And it is great to have extra muscle on board for the difficult tasks! Chuck cleans cages (inside and outside), feeds the animals, shows the animals attention and maintains the exteriors of animal habitats.
When asked what his favorite part about volunteering was, Chuck said, “Plain and simple……the animals’ happiness. Yeah, they are in captivity, but they are safe and well-cared for. Their happiness and comfort is my reward.” No, Chuck, that is not sappy! That’s awesome! But he also admits his least favorite part is that he cannot be there every day. At least you show up, and that means creating memorable moments! He said, “The second time I volunteered, Boo Bear the kinkajou reached her arm out of the cage, so I slowly went to pet her hand and she grabbed my finger. All she wanted was an arm massage. We have been doing it ever since. And another time when I was cleaning out the genet cage and the older genet Katalin jumped onto my shoulder/back and started rubbing on my head and purring in my ear.” Chuck admits the genets are his favorite critters at AFA.
Chuck has a dog at home and is one of those guys fortunate enough to say his hobbies are his work. He’s a photographer and video producer. He’s big into film and music. Chuck is a drummer, as well as an artist! Maybe we can get him to spruce up the downstairs where the animals are! Get a little nature theme going?! Chuck is working towards becoming a creative business owner in the future. We are sure he will succeed. His motto: “Be good to one another; we are all we have.”
31 year old Allison is our newest recruit, having started in February 2015 thanks to volunteer Chuck who posted on Facebook that AFA needed volunteers. Allison was looking for somewhere to volunteer and we were that place! Yay us! She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s going to be baptized by fire soon with all the feeding, cleaning and loving on the animals she’s going to have to do once she’s fully trained. While she loves the exposure to the exotic animals, she’s not too thrilled about the cleaning, but admits it needs to get done.
Allison also volunteers at the food pantry, but says she’s more compassionate towards animals than people most of the time, or all of the time. Hahaha. We so get that!!! She’ll be busy making memorable moments here at AFA. We’ll be sure of that. We already know Allison is a cat person, as this Lisle resident lives with two grey tabbies and has already confessed that the wildcats are her favorite so far at AFA. She has started to bond with lynxes Tundra and Denali, as well as jungle cats Mai and Thai.
A Pharmaceutical Quality Control Chemist, Allison is considering pursuing her Master’s degree in chemistry and/or switching from the pharmaceutical field to Cosmetic Formulations/R&D. And when she isn’t working or volunteering, she’s very active! She enjoys working out, yoga, aerial acrobats, traveling and going to heavy metal shows.
Noelle and Vince have been with AFA since they were 17 years old – back when we were bending the age requirement for volunteers! Noelle’s mom turned her onto volunteering, and Vince got dragged along with. Lucky for us, because they’ve been great! Five years later they’re still with us. Despite their hectic college careers, they faithfully return on breaks and brief visits home to tend to the animals and catch up on the latest AFA goings-on. Both agree that the animals and interacting with them are their favorite part of volunteering. Noelle adds, “They are all such characters!” It’s true! Each one has his or her unique personality!
As is the case with most volunteers, cleaning is the #1 task for this dynamic duo. Vince’s least favorite chore is cleaning the outdoor fox enclosure, which can be a dirty job and a challenge, as well. Noelle would rather not clean outside in bad weather. Winter around here is………well, it’s hell! But there are good times too! Says Vince, “On my first day volunteering, we sprayed perfume in the raccoon/coati enclosure and the coatis buried the scent into their tails instantly. I thought that was really neat!” And Noelle recalls meeting and handling Ozzy the bearded dragon while volunteering at an event. “I now have two bearded dragons of my own. I absolutely love the species,” she beams. And Noelle loves the sulcata tortoises, too!! Since volunteering at AFA she has also rescued one of her own. Vince’s favorite, however, is Tallulah the kinkajou. But Noelle also cherishes her, as well. LOL.
Both Vince and Noelle agree that AFA is very, very friendly, fun and a laid back atmosphere. Says Noelle, “You’re welcome to volunteer at varying times or whenever your schedule permits, or you can create a ritual of coming at the same time each week.” That’s one of the things that makes AFA unique and different from other organizations.
New Lenox resident Vince shares his home with 3 dogs and a tortoise. When he isn’t working as a UPS driver, he enjoys jet skiing, biking, snowmobiling and working in the garage. He sees himself sticking around UPS for quite a while and hopefully advancing through the ranks there. Tinley Park resident Noelle’s home is a bit more crowded with 5 dogs, 2 bearded dragons and a sulcata tortoise. She’ll soon be graduating from UIUC with a BS in Animal Sciences in the summer of 2015 and moving onto graduate school. Noelle’s aspirations are to go into zoo research or work in animal husbandry, animal welfare or conservation in a zoo or aquarium setting! Awesome!
Palos Park resident Ricky has been with AFA since 2011 when his dad came across our website while searching for new animal opportunities for him to get involved with. Ricky has been incredibly busy with college and internships, so his presence has not been as steady as he would like it to be, but when he’s here he takes care of the outside animals and even helps out with big events when he can. Says Ricky, “I love being able to take care of so many exotic animals. I also love going to our events and getting the word out to the public about what a great place we are and getting more people interested in supporting us.” He doesn’t really have a least favorite part about AFA, except that he can’t be here more often. Ricky has volunteered at a lot of animals places but says, “AFA is definitely different from every one of them, because at the other places I volunteer at I don’t have the ability to spend time with so many exotic animals that I work with at AFA. Also, it’s different because I get to go to our events at AFA. I don’t really get that opportunity at the other places I volunteer at.”
Ricky has a few memorable moments, but the one that comes to mind is the drive to an event in Indiana. He says, “That was a fun day being up there with our animals and the great people with AFA. I really enjoyed showing our animals to the public and spreading the word about what a great organization we are.” He loves all of the animals at AFA, but if he had to pick a favorite, it would have to be the silver/red foxes outside. Maybe it’s because they’re the first critters he worked with at AFA. Ricky loves spending time with all three of them and says they are each wonderful in their own ways. But, believe it or not, Ricky has no pets of his own at home, as he’s the only animal lover in his family, much like Founder Kim Schilling was growing up!
Besides spending basically everyday volunteering at different animal places Ricky has a few other hobbies. He loves horseback riding. He was on his college’s Equestrian Team for 4 years and loved being able to compete in shows against other colleges. He’s also a huge White Sox, Cardinals, Bulls, and Blackhawks fan. Ricky tries to go to as many games as he can each year.
Right now Ricky is currently an intern at Miller Park Zoo in Bloomington, IL and is currently taking care of about 60 animals there by himself. He is in the Tropical Rainforest area there. His goal after he’s done at Miller Park Zoo, is to find a job in the Marine Mammal field. Ricky wants to become a dolphin trainer at a zoo or an aquarium anywhere in the US. “I have always loved marine mammals and I have done a lot marine mammal internships. My internship at the Indianapolis Zoo was a great experience. They had me full on train our marine mammals there. Hopefully I can become a trainer one of these days.” Says Ricky. After 4.5 years at Ripon College Ricky graduated in December of 2014 with a major in Community Recreation and a minor in Leadership Studies.