To the Ellis Bird Farm, which is enjoying a record number of visitors this year, embracing this true gem that offers an awesome, peaceful setting where one can truly witness the wonders of nature.
Around 8,000 people have visited the farm near Prentiss since it opened its gates to the public on the May long weekend. Last year was a record — 7,300 visitors for the whole season. When the farm closes its gates at the end of August, it might come close to reaching the 9,000 visitor mark.
The Ellis Bird Farm is a must-see feature in Central Alberta.
“We are being ‘discovered’ by more and more people who enjoy the peaceful surroundings, the beautiful gardens and the wildlife. EBF is truly a gem,” says biologist Myrna Pearman, the farm’s services manager.
The farm offers a unique opportunity, through its many programs over the summer, for a first-hand experience for young and old to study and watch nature as it unfolds.
Appreciating nature and the soul food it offers is particularly important during these times of tough going. It offers solace from the outside world.
The farm recently held its Evening Event — its major annual fundraiser. The event is a celebration of the natural world and introduces attendees to the features of the farm. Special mention was made of MEGlobal Canada, which, in partnership with Dow Chemical, runs the Prentiss petrochemical plant across the road from the farm.
Two years ago, MEGlobal, crucial to the $180,000-annual operating costs at the farm, renewed a 20-year funding agreement to keep it alive.
It’s vital that such features as the bird farm continue to thrive to bring us back down to the real world.
To the federal Bowden Institution for establishing a program that allows inmates to contribute to the well-being of Central Alberta communities — affording them a road of true rehabilitation.
The Community Service Work Release Program was established in 1994. It enables inmates to leave the confines of their cells and donate their time to worthy causes in surrounding communities.
Since then, prisoners have volunteered their labour for a long list of non-profit groups, so far totalling several thousands of hours.
“We’re probably around the 15,000 hours of community outreach since our program began, without incident,” said assistant warden Rita Wehrle.
A case in point: When Bowden’s oldest building, the 116-year-old St. Matthews Anglican Church, recently needed a new coat of paint, the inmates were there. The church is now spruced up, compliments of their efforts.
When the Innisfail ski hill needed some work, the inmates not only volunteered their time, but they raised $1,000, recycling pop cans to buy materials to build a new shed at the hill.
Under the program, the inmates have fixed up campsites and contributed to the upkeep of various Central Alberta museums and agricultural societies. Community organizations are overwhelmed by the program.
“We get nothing but letters of thanks,” said Wehrle. “We’re quite proud of (the inmates), obviously, because clearly the work that we do is allowing organizations to improve, or maybe in some cases get through a difficult year, because we have provided labour free of charge.”
While the communities benefit, so do the inmates. It offers them time outside the prison to mingle with people and help them prepare for a life outside the prison routine.
Rick Zemanek is an Advocate editor.