Zookeepers are Special People

By Tina Michelle Cameron

If you follow my blogs, then you know that I am a huge animal lover and you know that I have been a volunteer at Riverbanks Zoo since July 2017. I volunteer in The Farm and Zebra/Ostrich areas. I have the pleasure of working with several amazing people who are full-time zookeepers. I decided to write about them and let everyone know a little bit about these special people who I have the privilege of working with.

The person that interviewed me when I applied to become a volunteer and that I have

Jessica with horse

Jessica

worked the longest with is Jessica. She is 27 years old, married and a mommy to a beautiful 5-month-old little boy. She also has several fur-babies at home. She has always had a love for animals and has always wanted to work with animals since she was little. When she was in high school she volunteered at the zoo and realized that was where she wanted to be. She has been a keeper for 8 years. She went to Purdue University in Indiana and has a BS degree in Animal Science.

Jessica with OpossumHer favorite animal is a jaguar, but her favorite animal at Riverbanks Zoo are Plum and Basel—who are two of our new baby goats. She loves knowing that she is a part of enhancing the lives in the care she gives the animals and with teaching the public new facts about the animals. Her hobbies include hiking, kayaking, and going to the beach to fish.

Mallory is 32 and from North Carolina and is also a mommy to fur-babies that include a dog and 2 chinchillas. She also served 6 years in the Air Force. Mallory also knew growing up that she wanted to do something with animals. At first, she wanted to be a marine biologist or a vet tech, but then discovered a

Mallory with Giraffe

Mallory

zoo-keeping program and became a zookeeper. She has a degree in Zoological Science Technology. She has been at Riverbanks Zoo since 2017 and was recently promoted to a swing keeper and is working in the cat/bear area. How cool is that to work with lions and grizzly bears.

In addition to all that she has accomplished, she also has an Elementary Education degree. We have become good friends, and this was a new fact I learned about her this week. Her favorite hobbies are gardening and photography, and Mallory with sealher favorite animal is the platypus because it is an egg-laying mammal! Her favorite experience she has had was going to Kenya for 20 days last year to see how conservation efforts work and how they protect the animals there.

Last, and certainly not least, is Laborde- “the only male in the Farm area” as we know and love him. Laborde is 30 years old and has been in the zoo “industry” as he says for 6 years and a zookeeper for 18 months. He has an

guy with horse

Laborde

Associates Degree in Zoo Animal Technology from Santa Fe College. He will be leaving the Farm area as he recently was promoted to work with the gorillas/monkeys.

He knew he wanted to work with exotic animals without having to travel. His favorite animal are alligators. He enjoys going to swamps and finding them. He also likes working with the Capuchin Monkeys- he says, “they have so much personality and intensity; and, it is like watching reality TV every time he works with them”. His favorite guy with snakeexperience as a zookeeper was taking the ponies into the river at the zoo. He also enjoys watching You-tube.

I hope you enjoy reading about some of these wonderful zookeepers that I get to work with. I have learned so much in my time there about animals and conservation. Zookeepers get to know these animals, their behaviors, mannerisms and will notice if something is wrong with them. They work in the hot, cold, and rainy weather. They must also watch the weather in order to keep the animals safe. They are caregivers and educators; so next time you visit the zoo and see a zookeeper, thank them for what they do—because they deserve it.

Enjoy the photos.

My First Trip to the Greenville Zoo

By Tina Michelle Cameron

Today I went to Greenville for the first time and went to the Greenville Zoo. It is in the middle of the city on a cute little side street not far from the interstate. As many of you know, I love animals and I am a volunteer at Riverbanks Zoo going on 2 years.giraffe pic

The Greenville Zoo is smaller than Riverbanks, but it does offer a wide variety of animals to see. It has a park/playground area and picnic area near the entrance. It is very affordable, and the map is easy to read. Despite the hot weather, there was a breeze and it was slightly overcast at times. Apparently, when I arrived at 1:20 pm I had just missed all the school buses leaving, so it was perfect. There were only about 15 people walking around.

flamingo picThere are a variety of animals to see from different species of monkeys, to lions, to an alligator, snapping turtle, and a red panda. The food prices were reasonable, and the staff were very friendly. The animals are surrounded by lots of trees and plants and they all looked happy. There are also areas for small kids to play in.

So, if you are looking for a short-day trip, Greenville is just up the road about 90 minutes. Enjoy the pictures of my afternoon.

 

I Did It!

By Tina Michelle Cameron

I did it! I did it! After 2 ½ years of taking classes as prerequisites and being accepted into the RN to BSN Mobility Distance Learning Program at The University of Alabama last May—I am now able to say I am an alumna! Class of 2019!

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My graduation day was May 3rd, 2019 at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. I had worked so hard to get to that point I wanted to experience all I could as a Senior. I had Senior pictures on campus made, I decorated my graduation cap which got numerous comments on how pretty it was. It was a wonderful weekend. I have dreamed of earning this degree for so long. I have been a nurse for 28 years and once my boys were grown, it was time for me to finish what had been on my bucket list since I was 18. So, 32 years later, my dream of having a four-year degree came true.

I attended the class ring ceremony with my mom on April 4th. I absolutely love my ring and what it represents. I wear it every day. The next weekend, I drove back to Tuscaloosa and had Senior pictures made and attended the annual Spring football game—it is called A-day. That morning, I also attended a breakfast where Coach Nick Saban was a speaker. It was amazing.

Resized_20190503_165519  I am blessed that my 2 adult sons and my parents were able to attend the graduation ceremony in Tuscaloosa. I went to the Presidents Mansion reception, which was nice, followed by a separate reception for the Distance Learning students. The graduation ceremony was after that and I must admit that I was nervous walking in alone to check-in and line up with the several thousand much younger graduates. I was thrilled to get to spend 90 minutes in the football teams indoor practice field. I stood on the 50-yard line and took a selfie.

Walking in to the coliseum I became excited and tearful all at once. I finally was able to locate my family in the stands. I prayed that I did not trip and fall walking across the stage and that my pictures they took earlier would come out well. When I picked up my card for lineup it said I was graduating Magna cum laude—I had no clue. I was given a sash to wear. I did not text my family to tell them, I wanted them to be surprised. I knew I good grades, but Distance Learning students are not recognized for the Dean’s List, etc. So, I had assumed they would not recognize all my hard work at graduation, but I was wrong! This was one of the best days of my life and having my children and parents there made it better. I even wore my son’s graduation cap he wore 4 years ago when he graduated from Bama. He even gave me a note before the ceremony that he wrote me, and his note was still in his cap that I wrote him the day he graduated.

I have enclosed pictures of my day. We had a great weekend and I am so proud to have this degree. My new id badge will read Tina Cameron, BSN, RN, OCN. I cannot wait to have it changed once I go back to work from vacation. I also have been accepted into the MSN program at The University of Alabama for Fall 2019, so I cannot wait to start grad school and in 2 years have my master’s degree.

Resized_TCB_0200_811289033076249            I would like to thank all my family and my friends who have supported me the past 3 ½ years. You will never know how special each of you are to me and how much I appreciate each of you.

 

 

Riverbanks Petting Zoo

By Tina Michelle Cameron

As many of you know if you read my posts or are friends with me on Facebook, I am a weekly volunteer at Riverbanks Zoo in the Farm area, Zebra/Ostrich and the Education Center. I have been there almost two years and it is the highlight of my week on Tuesday mornings. It is physically demanding, especially in this heat, but I absolutely love it. I am tired, sore and smelly when I come home, but it is a good kind of tired, soreness and well, not so good smell.

IMG_1550  If any of you have been to the zoo since January, you may have noticed that the ponies are gone. They are now living on farms and having a great retirement. I have a great friend, Darlene, whose daughters’ horse is at the same stable and so I get regular pictures and updates on them. What is now in the place of the pony rides is a brand-new petting zoo that just recently opened about two weeks ago. We have several chickens in a coop, three baby piggies and as of right now, 19 baby goats that are absolutely precious and growing like weeds. There will be 11 more baby goats coming soon.

 

We have a few different types of goats; They are a Nigerian Dwarf, American Lamancha, Saanen and then one Nubian, whose name is Mike. He is my favorite new baby.  He absolutely loves people, being petted and getting attention. He is the only one that is going to be big like the other 3 goats at the Farm. 

If you are a zoo member, you get admission to it, but you can buy treats to give the goats, brush and pet them and watch them be fed by our wonderful zookeepers. The entire petting zoo is ADA compliant and I got to meet a wonderful little boy and his mom yesterday who was not able to run around like the other children, so I picked up Mike, so this sweet child could pet him. It was his first experience in petting a baby goat and it made my day.

Please come out and check out our new petting zoo. The kids are sure to love it and the parents as well. Enjoy the pictures. Mike is the one with the long floppy ears.

 

Transitioning Through Life

By Tina Michelle Cameron

If you follow my blog, you know that I am an advocate for paying it forward and for doing volunteer work. And, just like many people who want to volunteer with their families at Thanksgiving and Christmas time, such as serving meals to the homeless or at a shelter—I have always wanted to do that on those mornings. Unfortunately, with my work schedule and other demands in life, it never worked out or the shelters had no openings for volunteers. I know that is not a good excuse, as there are 363 other days that these shelters need help.

transitions-facilityI am a nurse and have always wanted to help people and to care for them, it is just my nature. Well, I signed up a few weeks ago to volunteer at a shelter in Columbia called Transitions. It is in downtown Columbia at the site of a hotel that was torn down. It is a beautiful brick building that blends in with the rest of the buildings downtown. If you did not know what it is, you probably would not ever guess that it is a place for homeless people as well as others who are of various ages and stages in their life. Many have lost their jobs resulting in losing their homes, and some are people that live on the streets every day. Others have some income and a job, but need a place to stay for a few months to truly get back on their feet and in permanent housing.

I completed my orientation and walk-thru with the director last Wednesday, December 19th and served my first breakfast the next morning. We had 6 volunteers that morning and a nutritious breakfast to 100 people in 15 minutes. By the time I drove home an hour later, I knew this was what I wanted to do as a small way of helping people who are down on their luck.

Every single person that I served that morning, thanked every single one of us and told us how appreciative they were to have us get up on a cold, rainy morning and drive there to serve them breakfast. They wished us Merry Christmas, and all told us God bless you. Some were young, some were old, but they all were so thankful to have a hot meal and a place for a few hours or overnight to get out of the cold and wet weather.

According to their website and the amazing Community Outreach/ Event Coordinator, Cathy, Transitions was founded in 2011 and have been able to help 2,179 people find jobs and permanent housing. They have 240 beds- they have a day center that serves meals, they have a 30-day unit for men and women to stay short-term and then they have a much larger building to house people for several months to help them get back on their feet. They have numerous classes held daily to help with job skills, AA meetings and empowerment classes for women. They also have a raised vegetable garden that was created by a Boy Scout for his Eagle Scout project. Transitions is a non-profit organization and is the largest homeless center in Columbia, serving numerous counties in the state.

transitions-logoPlease consider volunteering at Transitions. It is easy to sign up as a volunteer on their website. I am already excited to return. I am blessed to have a wonderful job, a beautiful family and home, but, many of us could be in the same boat and be 1-2 paychecks away from losing everything. Life is what you make it, mine is not perfect by any means, but I want to know I made a difference.

#payitforward

#spreadkindness

https://transitionssc.org/

Reflecting

By Tina Michelle Cameron

As 2018 is winding down and 2019 is just around the corner, I have been reminiscing about everything that has happened to me this year. Overall, it has been a wonderful year, but, has also been filled with sadness in the passing of my beloved Yorkie, Haley. I have been blessed to have opportunities come my way such as being accepted into an amazing RN to BSN program at The University of Alabama; being chosen to be a blogger for Every Woman, and a very brief (few seconds) shot in Lexington Medical Center’s Christmas commercial.

I have been back in school since January 2016 working on prerequisites just to apply to the RN to BSN program at Alabama. I cried when I received the acceptance letter. It has been my dream to have a four-year degree since I was 18. That dream is coming true and I will graduate on May 3rd, 2019. I just completed my second semester and have all A’s-I am so proud of myself as one of my classes required two papers that you must pass. Let’s just say that APA format is not my friend! I also was chosen for a scholarship. I could not believe it and felt very blessed to have been chosen. It was the Barbara Hester Lowery Memorial Endowed Scholarship. Dr. Lowery was director of the Lowery Resource Learning Center, Capstone College of Nursing at The University of Alabama. I intend on paying it forward and starting a scholarship for single moms returning to school to finish their BSN degree.

I never thought after entering a contest on Facebook that I would be chosen to be a blogger for Every Woman Blog. I remember sitting there when I found out with my mouth open for a few minutes—in shock. I have had the pleasure of meeting some outstanding, fabulous women and fellow bloggers. Together we are all successful women with a variety of backgrounds-chef, nurse, teacher, cancer survivor. It had always been in my mind that I wanted to blog, and it has been an honor. I look forward to blogging for a longtime to come. Thank you to Emily and Jennifer for your support. You ladies are a blessing.

facebook_1544749125589 I must talk again about the incredible loss I had on June 25th, 2018. My beloved 9 ½ year old Yorkie—Ms. Haley Michelle Cameron. Unless you are a dog lover, no one really understands how dogs become family and that people mourn their loss just as you do a family member. I think of her every single day. I always said she was the daughter I never had. She was very girly and frou-frou. I can still hear her high-pitched, ear-piercing barking. The way she would stare at me until I gave her a Chick-fil-A nugget or waffle fry and how she used to have to sleep with her fur-babies (stuffed animals). As I unpacked our Christmas boxes to decorate last month, the first box I opened had our stockings in it and hers was on top-I immediately broke out in tears. My heart still hurts and my other Yorkie—Peyton Manning is not the same. She will come and cuddle with me and just whimper. She just seems lost.

facebook_1544749060590In closing, I want to thank my wonderful sons Corey and Hunter, my parents and my friends who have supported me this year and helped me with school. Thank you for listening to me cry over APA format and papers and especially the support of my loss. I love you all very much and could not be doing any of this without your support.

I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. Looking forward to 2019 and what the future holds for me.

 

 

Remembering our Veterans at Christmas Time

By Tina M. Cameron

Recently a friend of mine Beryl posted something on Facebook that she had just signed up for as a volunteer. She shared the link and I opened it to see what it was about. It is called Wreaths Across America. It is an annual day to honor our veterans by laying a wreath on their grave. According to the Wreaths Across America website, Congress voted December 13th, 2008 as Wreaths Across America Day. On that day over 100,000 wreaths were laid by over 60,000 volunteers. This occurred in 300 locations and included cemeteries in every state as well as 24 overseas cemeteries and Puerto Rico.

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Anyone interested in becoming a sponsor or a volunteer can go to their website (which I will include at the end of my blog).  Arlington Cemetery is one of the largest cemeteries that wreaths are laid at.  Wreath laying at military cemeteries began when the Worcester Wreath Company had a surplus of wreaths leftover and decided to honor Veterans. It began small and has now spread worldwide. This eventually led to the non-profit Wreaths Across America.

This opportunity to lay a wreath to honor our military is a great way to include your children in volunteering and to teach a valuable lesson to them on what it means to give back, to honor someone who fought for our country and to spend time together. When wreaths are laid at each grave site, you are to say the person’s name out loud to remember them and to let them and their families know they are not forgotten. I am looking forward to this on December 15th at Fort Jackson National Cemetery in Columbia, SC.

If you want to participate, simply go to the Wreaths Across America website and either choose volunteer, your location closest to you and sign up. If you are unable to volunteer to lay wreaths, you can choose to sponsor a wreath and donate money. I plan on making this a yearly experience and would love to eventually go participate at Arlington National Cemetery. My friend and I are trying to get a group together so if you are interested feel free to contact me via email and we can discuss meeting up on Saturday, December 15th.

To learn more: https://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org

(On the right-hand side, use the drop- down box to choose volunteer and follow instructions from there)

Here is my email address if you want to join us at Fort Jackson National Cemetery: tmcameron@crimson.ua.edu