By COLBY DENTON
Most people love animals, right? Happinest, a local animal rehabilitation center, is working on fundraising for its future headquarters in order to better serve its furry patients. Founded in …
Most people love animals, right? Happinest, a local animal rehabilitation center, is working on fundraising for its future headquarters in order to better serve its furry patients.
Founded in 2015, Happinest Wildlife Rehabilitation and Rescue Inc. is a group of licensed volunteers who are dedicated to the rehab of orphaned, sick or injured wildlife. Its goal is to prevent suffering and successfully return animals to the wild, whenever possible.
"We are permitted for Class 2 wildlife and non rabies-vector animals," co-founder Sherry Teas stated.
Serving both Cleveland and Chattanooga, the organization accepts a plethora of wildlife and is working toward building its own headquarters.
"The animals that we rehab are squirrels, chipmunks, flying squirrels, opossums, groundhogs, shrews, ducks, songbirds, raptors and other such creatures," Teas added.
The organization's fundraising involves special promotions through local businesses, special events and donations via Facebook. During its 'Giving Tuesday' the last week of November, Happinest's donations were matched dollar per dollar by the Bill Gates Foundation.
"We are sponsored by Volkswagen, and Crown Chrysler has its monthly "Oil Change Saturdays" where $10 of each oil change is donated to Happinest," Teas said.
Teas is one of two co-founders of Happinest, the other being Alix Parks, a raptor specialist. Parks trained Teas under her permit, and Teas became certified shortly afterward.
According to Teas, Parks has been certified to work with raptors for nearly 15 years.
"I got into Happinest as a songbird specialist," Teas said. "It all started when I rescued a robin after the April 2011 tornadoes. I found out that there were no rehabbers for birds and it just broke my heart. I then met Alix, and we decided to do something about these issues."
Its staff said that animal rehabilitation is something that most can support, so it truly is a shame when organizations that can make a difference cannot afford a location to heal these creatures.
"The nature center refers all of its wildlife rehab calls to us, as they only do their breeding program now," Teas said. "An area as large as Chattanooga needs a large space to help these animals, and that is what we are working toward. We also just took in 14 turtles that the TWRA rescued from an exotic pet store, just to give you an idea of the amount of patients we have."
Teas said she originally struggled to name the organization, but following prayer, Happinest was the only name that came to mind.
Happinest also seeks to inform the public about native wildlife through awareness and education. The organization uses its rehabilitated animals who can't be returned to the wild in its educational lessons to students and visitors. Teas' preferred traveling companion is a friendly, one-eyed opossum named Eugene.
"We got Eugene when he was so small that he could fit in our hand. He was rescued by a student catching the bus who saw that he had been attacked by birds, and so we took him in," Teas stated.
While the animals speak for themselves in the classroom, volunteers help spread the company's message to the community.
Volunteer Rebekah Champion stated, "Most of the volunteers have pets, families and full-time jobs, but their love for these wild animals means that they will go above and beyond for their rescues."
Chattanooga supplies the bulk of volunteers with 90, while 10 are from Cleveland.
According to the volunteers, every animal life is a precious one.
"We save many animals; however, we are unable to save them all. The pain we feel when an animal doesn't make it is very real," Champion added.
Teas also explained how expensive it is to rehabilitate animals, which is why donations are such a large portion of the organization's overall needs.
"We have a wish list on Amazon, which can have items for as low as $5 that we need to help these animals. All items are used, and we are always accepting donations," Teas said.
Happinest is aided by multiple other organizations, including Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop, the Chattanooga Zoo, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Volkswagen Chattanooga, Sinclair Broadcast Group Chattanooga, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency and the Chattanooga Audubon Society.
Some upcoming events include dinners, public releases of rehabbed animals, business promotions and a Walk-for-Wildlife fundraiser at Audubon Acres in Chattanooga, in spring 2018.
If you find an injured animal or simply would like more information, the organization can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by contacting Zeno Beaty, the Cleveland representative, at 423-240-8397.
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