Nonprofit Spotlight: TreeHouse Wildlife Center
TreeHouse Wildlife Center has served the southwestern Illinois community for over 40 years as a professional resource for those who encounter a wild animal in need, and as a center for wildlife rehabilitation with a focus on environmental stewardship and awareness. In 2021, TreeHouse took in over 1,500 animals, from squirrels and opossums to turtles and songbirds.
Sherri Easley, Director of Operations, became a transport volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic and recently joined the TreeHouse staff.
“I’ve had a lot of different jobs, but this is the most fulfilling,” said Easley. “To nurse an animal back to health, open the crate, and let them go…it’s the best feeling!”
Easley is not the only volunteer-turned-employee at TreeHouse. Kelly Vandersand first came to TreeHouse Wildlife Center five years ago as a volunteer. Now she serves as Fundraising Coordinator and is spearheading a half million-dollar fundraising project on top of caring for rescued animals.
TreeHouse Wildlife Center has seen many improvements in recent years such as sidewalks, a new maintenance building, and new enclosures. They are currently fundraising to expand their existing education center with a new classroom and migratory waterfowl rehabilitation clinic.
The classroom will allow TreeHouse to host professional lectures, programs, tours, field trips, and more year-round, eliminating the need to cancel programs due to weather. The space will also be available to rent for meetings and birthday parties as an additional source of revenue. The migratory waterfowl rehabilitation clinic will be the only one in the Midwest, which will allow TreeHouse to rehabilitate animals such as swans and pelicans. View a drawing of the extension here.
“Our founder, Adele Moore, retired in 2021 after over 42 years of saving our wildlife. Getting the funding for this education classroom would be the best retirement gift I can give her,” Vandersand said.
Interactive environmental education is a cornerstone of TreeHouse’s mission. TreeHouse offers customizable outreach programs that often involve animal ambassadors. They teach visitors to have compassion, tolerance, and understanding for the animals they rescue.
“We have been given a very unique opportunity to interact with the public and educate on the value of wildlife and how we can help them,” Vandersand said.
TreeHouse relies on contributions from members, volunteers, and the community to sustain the day-to-day care of their wildlife patients and permanent residents and education programs. To meet their needs, TreeHouse has found some unique solutions. In spring of 2020, when grocery store shelves were at their most barren, TreeHouse put out a call to the community asking for donations of meat to feed the animals. The post reached over 49,000 individuals, and two additional freezers were donated to accommodate all the donated meat. They also receive weekly food donations from the Fresh Thyme grocery store in Fairview Heights and supplies from Gateway Pet Guardians in East St. Louis.
“All of our staff and volunteers also have the same passion,” said Vandersand. “Together we all play our part to ensure we can save as many animals as possible. As a small nonprofit, we all step up to help with programs, cleaning, animal care, fundraising, events, and whatever else it takes. Our staff and volunteers are some of the most dedicated people I have ever worked with.”
Interested volunteers can get involved by:
- Becoming a member
- Becoming a volunteer (Animal care, education, construction, maintenance, fundraising, gardening, and wildlife transport opportunities available)
- Sponsoring an animal
- Participate in the internship program
- Check out building, sewing, and enrichment projects (Squirrel boxes and tank quilts are needed most)
Rachel Heaton, Volunteer Rehabilitation Advisor, first came to TreeHouse as a college student in 2012 after graduating from SIUE with a degree in biological sciences.
When Heaton was a staff member she was impressed with the dedication of the team. “The staff and volunteers here spend countless hours trying to help every animal that comes through their doors. I recommend this facility to anyone with wildlife questions or who finds wildlife in need,” Heaton said.
TreeHouse is open to the public and visiting is free. See their address and current operating hours on their website. Visitors can enjoy seeing TreeHouse’s many resident animals, take a guided tour, or participate in an educational program.
TreeHouse Wildlife Center is a participant in Give STL Day. Give STL Day is powered by the St. Louis Community Foundation and will take place on May 5, 2022.