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Grant helps bird feeder program at local seniors homes take off

'They are great therapy for our residents and their guests who come to visit,' says hospice official of unique program created by Orillia's Bird House Nature Company

Birds all over town are flocking to full feeders thanks to Bird House Nature Company owner Patricia Cousineau.

Cousineau applied for and received a $10,000 grant from the My Main Street Local Business Accelerator program, funded by the federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).

Her grant application specified that she would use the grant money for improving signage at her downtown storefront in addition to supporting community projects, specifically building birdhouses with local Scouting groups, and supplying and donating bird feeders and birdseed to local senior and retirement homes, as well as Mariposa House Hospice.

“The grant process was kind of long and had many steps,” said Cousineau. “But I got through it and was so happy to get the money to help out the way I have,” she added.

Cousineau said most of the senior and retirement homes in Orillia now have Squirrel Buster Plus bird feeders, thanks to the Bird House.

“Squirrel Buster is a Canadian company and they come with a lifetime warranty,” she said. “They are very durable and we just put them on poles so they can be moved and will last forever."

Cousineau also donated a 44-pound bag of black oil sunflower seeds with each bird feeder.

“The black oil sunflower is the best for birds in winter, and this amount should last them all winter,” she said.

The senior homes and Mariposa House Hospice can also add the sunflower seeds to their wishlist for donations, she added. Donors can purchase the seed from her, and she can even arrange to have it picked up.

Lynn Thomas, donor relations manager at Mariposa House Hospice, said residents love the bird feeders.

“We love the feeding stations,” she enthused. “Our butterfly garden and surrounding wooded property is a perfect location to draw all kinds of wildlife. Each resident room has its own attached deck in which we have hummingbird feeders in the warm weather, and they are great therapy for our residents and their guests who come to visit.”

The recent donation means that 'therapy' can happen year-round.

“But the feeding stations given by the Bird House can be enjoyed year-round. We have one resident who has been with us for two months now and watches out for these visitors daily, so one of the new feeding stations was placed right outside of his room to enjoy," Thomas explained.

Both Cousineau and Thomas emphasized how therapeutic nature and, specifically bird watching, is for everyone.

“In the winter, residents in seniors homes and at hospice can’t necessarily get out to the garden, but the feeders can be moved nearer to the building and residents’ rooms then, so bird watching can be enjoyed year-round," said Cousineau.

Thomas agreed.

“In the winter season, we can continue to enjoy the birds’ activities amongst the trees and the snow, even when other areas are closed to us. We are so grateful to Patricia and the Bird House for this wonderful donation,” Thomas said.

Cousineau’s grant also paid for birdhouse building kits for local Scouting groups. Cousineau took the kits to the meetings and helped the kids assemble them, while also teaching them about the importance of birds in our ecosystem.

Each youth also received some birdseed and tips about where to place the birdhouses.

“It was really nice to teach them about the birds,” said Cousineau. “That education piece is so important, to teach our children about nature and the environment.”