Richard “The Birdman” April 4, 2019 – Posted in: Blog, Community Inclusion, Happy Dances

Everyone needs community. Finding people with similar interests, giving back to others, and realizing your potential for growth, are important to living life to the fullest at any age. For most of us we fulfill…

these needs through the relationships we develop at work, but what about retirement? Here at AtWork!, that’s what our talented Community Inclusion Specialists are for. AtWork! provides pathways to active engagement in our communities with personal assistance for each individual. We develop plans that build connections with others who have similar interests and help individuals contribute to the community through volunteer work.

Richard entered into our Community Inclusion Services hoping to maintain his connection to the community. Upon retirement, he decided he wanted to spend more time doing things that he loved. Richard’s Community Inclusion Specialist Sean spent a great deal of time with Richard to determine his passions, asking questions about his life and listening to Richard’s stories to discover his talents. One day, Richard shared an interesting challenge with Sean. He had always loved birds and wanted to spend time with them, he even had a few small ones at home. Sean quickly went to research any opportunity he could find, all while asking himself, “Where does one go to spend time with birds?” After volunteering at a couple pet stores, Sean stumbled upon Zazu’s House Parrot Sanctuary in Woodinville. Sean gave them a call, and they quickly embraced Richard as one of their own.

Zazu’s House Parrot Sanctuary is a charitable organization providing a forever home for parrots, offering plenty of free flight opportunities, social interaction with other birds, and an abundance of loving attention from the volunteers. They are not open to the public but we got the rare opportunity to tour Zazu’s with Richard as our guide. We first entered the main house where volunteers chop fruit up for the almost 300 residents that call this place home, with large breed Macaws making up the largest portion of the sanctuary’s inhabitants. We then moved our tour into the main facility that was once an orchard. The owners have sealed and roofed the space giving it a sense of the outdoors which allows the birds to fly freely, all while protecting them from flying away. As you walk through the space, the birds follow. Flying from tree to tree with full four-foot wingspans that gush past you as you walk. They’re all very curious about the visitors in their home, and if you have any treats for them. The second house is split into smaller “hotels” that Richard effortless guides us through, it’s clear he knows this place well. Before we enter the last room, Richard turns and gives us a “hush” signal, bringing his finger to his lip and slightly covering his ever-present smile. He twists the knob, enters the room, and says, “Hello!” Suddenly a cacophony of parrot voices sound, “Hello!” “Hello!” “Hi!” “Hello!” A room with close to twenty macaws eagerly greet us and fly closer to Richard. The choir of parrot voices is like something you have never heard before and is not something we will easily forget. The birds definitely know and love Richard, and he’s pretty fond of all of them too.

Here at AtWork!, we all know Richard affectionately as, “The Birdman”. Richard represents just one of the many amazing AtWork! stories about Community Inclusion. We pride ourselves in our ability to find and create meaningful community relationships and active engagement for everyone in our services, no matter their passion. Our Community Access includes volunteer work (like Richard’s Story), civic engagement, and other social and recreational activities to keep our individuals happy and engaged.

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