Squawkless in Summerland? No! Check Out the Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary

It was not a planned visit.

My son and I were cycling from Carpinteria to Santa Barbara for the first time, enjoying a relaxing ride on Via Real/Lillie Ave, paralleling the 101 on the north side.

We passed a sign that said "McLeod Parrot Menagerie" and I heard birds, squawking birds. I said, let's check this out! 

Little did I know that co-located at the Menagerie is the Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary.

Squawkless in Summerland!? Heck no! Lots of squawking and talking going on at this place!

The Sanctuary is a non-profit organization founded by Jamie McLeod that rescues and rehabilitates parrots that are unwanted, abused and orphaned. The organization also finds homes for these beautiful animals. 

The Sanctuary is home to over 60 of birds, some of which are ready for adoption; others may have conditions that prevent adoption.

We got the chance to chat with Jamie, who is 1984 graduate from the America's Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College. She showed us the Skylar Learning Center, where children can learn more about these interesting, long-lived, intelligent creatures.

And of course we visited with the birds and had meaningful conversations with many of them. We heard words and phrases like "hello," "knock knock," "how's it going," "I love you," and so on. Quite entertaining. And we caught a few cool head bobs too!

We also learned that the McLeod Parrot Menagerie provides grooming and boarding, toys and other parrot-related products and services.

The Santa Barbara Bird Sanctuary is a must see and less than an hour from central Thousand Oaks. Visiting hours are 10am to 4pm daily, except Tuesdays. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for kids. Donations are welcomed (and tax deductible) as they help towards caring for and feeding the parrots.

These fellows were quite entertaining.

These fellows were quite entertaining.

To learn more, visit www.sbbird.org or visit their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/sbbsbirds or call 805.565.1807. The street address is 2340 Lillie Avenue, Summerland.

Compilation of 15 Local Conejo Valley Based Charities to Support in the New Year

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As we begin a new year, let's take a look at some local non-profit 501(c)3 charities that are doing great things for the local Conejo Valley community!

The Arts Council of the Conejo Valley has supported and promoted the arts in the Conejo Valley since 1969. The non-profit works with the Conejo Recreation & Park District and Conejo Valley Unified School District in supporting local programs including children's music instruction, choral and theatre programs, youth theater, summer concerts in the park, the annual Thousand Oaks Arts Festival and more.

The Conejo Valley based Center4SpecialNeeds ("Bridging the Gaps for Children with Special Needs") offers financial support, educational workshops, networking and other resources for families with children that have developmental disabilities.

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The Westlake Village based Cancer Support Community Valley/Ventura/Santa Barbara has provided cancer education, support and hope to thousands of local residents and their families since 1991. Programs are provided free of charge in English and Spanish.

The Conejo Free Clinic’s Medical Services Program serves over 5,000 patients each year with physician and nurse care, lab testing, imaging, prescriptions, referrals and follow up, all without charge.

Established in 1995, the Conejo Open Space Foundation raises funds to promote and maintain the open space and multi-use trails of Conejo Valley.

Founded in 1977, Hospice of the Conejo, is a volunteer hospice and grief support center providing end-of-life services to those of all ages in the community at no cost.

Manna Conejo Valley Food Bank has provided food assistance to friends and neighbors in need since it was founded in 1971.

Based in Thousand Oaks, Musicians on a Mission California provides access to music through instrument "gift-aways," mentorship, and performing opportunities for our youth and members of the community.

Since 1998, the Westlake Village based My Stuff Bags Foundation has given rescued children across the country bright blue individual duffels filled with toys, books, a stuffed animal, school supplies, clothing, personal toiletries, and a security blanked - providing a little happiness and hope to these children.

Conejo Valley based PAUSE4kids was formed in September 1999 and serves hundreds of families with special needs children in the Ventura County area. The organization's goal is to "fill the gaps" by helping to provide whatever is needed for children with special needs that is not now readily available.

With a 13 acre site in Newbury Park, Ride On Therapeutic Horsemanship teaches adaptive horseback riding to children and adults with physical and cognitive disabilities and provides physical, occupational and speech therapy specializing in using the movement ofthe horse to improve specific medical conditions. Since 1994, Ride On has given over 100,000 safe, effective and individualized lessons and therapy treatments and currently serves 200 individuals each week.

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Serving the Conejo Valley since 1975, non-profit Senior Concerns serves the senior community and especially frail and special-need seniors, caregivers and families by providing quality programs, appropriate resources and educational outreach. raising funds and developing and administering quality-of-life programs for seniors with special needs. All programs are offered without regard for the ability to pay. Senior Concerns serves Ventura and western Los Angeles counties, special-need seniors, families, health professionals, caregivers and the community at large.

Thousand Oaks based Many Mansions provides well-managed, service-enriched, affordable housing to low-income residents of Ventura County and its surrounding communities. 

The Thousand Oaks Police Charitable Foundation was organized to promote community welfare through support of public safety and volunteer programs.

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The United Cancer Advocacy Action Network (UCAAN) is a Thousand Oaks based non-profit founded by a young cancer survivor that provides support, hope and financial resources to cancer patients, warriors and survivors with any form of cancer, any age, anywhere across the country.

This list is just a fraction of the non-profit 501(c)3 organizations that operate in the Conejo Valley and Greater Ventura County. Fora more comprehensive list, visit the Local Charities section of the site as well as the Local Service Organizations section.

Nonprofit Cats and Dogs International, CANDi, Saves the Lives of Stray Animals

Cats and Dogs International, CANDi, is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving the lives of stray cats and dogs through spay, neuter and adoption programs. Recently, CANDi funded chemotherapy for a cancer-stricken dog called Luna.

The Story of Luna from Nuvue Cinema on Vimeo.

Cancún is a world-renowned tourist destination which is lesser known for its vast stray dog population. In Mexico, many workers earn the equivalent of $4 per day and spay surgery is not feasible, costing up to several weeks worth of pay for the average worker. CANDi programs provide the resources necessary to address the stray animal issue in situations where local governments and animal groups are not in a position to help. Thousands of cats and dogs have been spayed and neutered annually as a result.

It was during a vacation in Cancún that photographer Tracey Buyce came face-to-face with the staggering stray dog issue. She knew she had to help and discovered CANDi’s founder, Galati, through an internet search. She was back in Cancún four months later, volunteering at one of CANDi’s twice-annual free spay/neuter clinics, and soon came on board as CANDi's official photographer.

Returning to Bonfil, Mexico with CANDi again in January 2013, Buyce spotted Luna, a neglected and skeletal dog. After gaining permission from her owner to give Luna up, she had her examined and diagnosed with starvation and cancer. Luna is currently undergoing treatment and chemotherapy under the care of Dr. Leon, and CANDi volunteers in Mexico.

Buyce made it her mission to find a loving home for the gentle dog and posted Luna’s story on Facebook. She received a response almost immediately from Jenny Witte, founder of Mamatoga, a parenting website and magazine in New York, wanting to adopt her. Buyce flew back to Mexico to bring Luna back for a homecoming with her new family in Saratoga Springs on March 18th. The touching result is shown in the following video.

Luna Part Deux from Nuvue Cinema on Vimeo.

Visit Luna's Facebook page here. See more of Tracey Buyce's work at www.traceybuyce.com.

About CANDi: CANDi’s mission is to save the lives of stray animals at international tourist destinations through advocacy, education and humane, sustainable population management programs supported and funded by the tourism industry, travelers and pet lovers. Founded in 2006, CANDi is the innovation of CEO and President Darci Galati, an animal lover with 20 years of experience working in the tourism industry. "CANDi’s programs are viable, long-term solutions to animal overpopulation in resort areas that can be copied and applied worldwide,” says Galati, whose organization is supported by the tourism industry, travelers and pet lovers. For more information about CANDi visit www.candiinternational.org.

The Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce Supports Local Business

The Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce is a member-driven, professionally-staffed nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the region's business community in the communities of Thousand Oaks (including Newbury Park), Westlake Village and Agoura Hills.

There are approximately 1,400 business and professional firm memberships in the Chamber, making it one of the largest chambers in California. It provides a range of opportunities, services, benefits and resources to local businesses looking to network and grow in the community. There are networking groups, committees, mixers, brown bag educational sessions, promotional opportunities and more.

To learn more about the chamber, visit www.conejochamber.org or call 805.370.0035. The Greater Conejo Valley Chamber of Commerce is located at 600 Hampshire Road, Suite 200, Westlake Village (at the Townsgate intersection).

NatureBridge Brings Field Science Education to Over 30,000 Students Each Year

NatureBridge is the largest residential education partner of the National Park Service. Each year, 30,000 students and teachers learn and explore in NatureBridge campuses in Yosemite, Golden Gate, Olympic, Santa Monica Mountains, Channel Islands and Prince William Forest National Parks. For over 40 years, NatureBridge programs have changed the lives of more than one million students and teachers.

NatureBridge believes environmental field science education should be a part of every child’s life. The organization's priority is to open children’s hearts and minds to the wonder and science of nature and ignite in them the courage to take actions that make the world a healthier place.

Through hands-on environmental science education, children and teens build critical thinking skills, knowledge and self-esteem. Students are challenged to see their world in a new way. They conduct scientific research that drives well-informed choices and gives them a stronger understanding of our interconnections with the natural world.

NatureBridge has a local office based in Woodland Hills that offers programs in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and Channel Islands National Park to students in grades 4 to 12. These programs are two- to five-day residential outdoor science programs led by experienced educators, customized to enhance school curriculums.

From the top of Sandstone Peak to the Arroyo Sequit watershed, students explore the Santa Monica Mountains' Mediterranean ecosystem and learn through academic and physical challenges how their actions impact the world. At Channel Islands, students leave everything familiar behind, studying isolated landscapes and seascapes, experiencing unique animals and plants and beginning to think differently about the world and their place in it.

NatureBridge is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, funded by donations and its programs. Annually, over $1 million in NatureBridge scholarships ensure that diverse youth from underserved urban and rural communities experience the magic of living and learning in our national parks. On average, 35% of NatureBridge's students receives scholarship assistance.

To learn more about local NatureBridge programs, visit www.naturebridge.org or call the Woodland Hills office at 818.914.7660.