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Think about the last time you volunteered your talents or time to an important cause. How did volunteering make you feel? We all lead busy lives and if you are a regular Salt Project reader you probably also like to spend any free time you have adventuring and exploring where you live.  But, just because we are all busy, doesn’t mean we can’t find time to volunteer. What if we told you that you could volunteer locally at some of the same places you already like to spend your free time? All it takes is a little initiative and some online research.

We recently decided to search for ways our family could volunteer together and we discovered an opportunity at the Tracy Aviary. The Tracy Aviary is one of our favorite local spots to visit. It is a gorgeous 8-acre bird sanctuary tucked inside Liberty Park and it is only one of two public aviaries in the country.  The Aviary features a wide range of wildlife, exhibits, and shows (my kids love the bird shows -- especially when the birds paint pictures). On a recent visit, we learned that a lot of the work at the Aviary is actually done by volunteers. Volunteers wash the bird’s dishes, improve the grounds, prepare bird food, help with special events, and work in the office, among other things. We were even more excited to find out that there are ways for families to volunteer at the Aviary.

Recently, the Aviary started a pilot program to provide opportunities for families to volunteer together.  We jumped at the chance to work behind the scenes at Tracy Aviary and signed up to get more information through their website. Right now families can participate in programs to make Duck Food bags (all ages) or weed in the exhibits (ages 10+). We’ve decided to share our experience here with you in case this is something you’d be interested in checking out for your family!

The volunteer project we participated in was making Duck Food bags. We chose this activity because it was appropriate for kids of all ages (although probably not babies/toddlers). After we went through the online process (which was very simple) we received an email from Michelle Mileham, Director of Education at the Tracy Aviary, with additional information and we worked with her to pick a time to volunteer.

When we arrived at the Aviary we met Michelle at the front desk and logged into the volunteer computer. They keep track of volunteer hours and provide incentives (like free memberships and events) for regular volunteers. Next, Michelle took us into the back office where we got set up with all of the materials to create duck food bags. After a brief orientation, Michelle left us to get to work. We created a little family assembly line and soon we had our 7-year-old opening brown paper bags, our 5-year-old scooping duck food into the bags, and my husband and I closing the bags and putting them into a large box. We switched jobs throughout the time that we worked and we filled so many bags that we needed a few more big boxes to put our duck bags in. Of course, along the way we spilled a little duck food on the floor and we got to sweep up our mess.

We worked beside our kids for about an hour and a half until we ran out of duck food. While we worked, we talked about what people do at the Aviary, why they need volunteers, and why it is important to do the work the right way the first time.

Then, we loaded everything into a cart and the girls got to take the cart downstairs in the elevator to the Tracy Aviary gift shop where the Duck Food bags are sold.

They were presented with some peacock feathers as a reward for all of their hard work and they got to watch the Gift Shop employees put the duck food on the shelves where Aviary visitors can buy it. They were so proud of themselves! After we finished our volunteer project and logged out of the volunteer system, we explored the Aviary a little bit before heading home. We especially liked visiting the owl forest and watching Andy the Andean Condor eat his lunch.

If you are interested in volunteering at the Tracy Aviary they have a wide range of opportunities for families, groups, and individuals. The Aviary is open all year round and has a variety of needs throughout the year, especially related to aviculture (the breeding and rearing of birds) and landscaping. They are looking to line up family volunteers right now to help them through the summer months.

The Aviary also provides a variety of free educational programs for families and groups. The Nature in the City series provides city residents with fun, educational activities to get kids outdoors and encourages exploration of nature all around us. During the summer months the Aviary offers daily Wetland Tours and Stream Explorations programs and on Mondays/Fridays offers a Books & Boots nature story time program for preschoolers. Lastly, at the end of July the Aviary will carry on the tradition of “Breakfast with the Birds,” their annual family event and fundraiser. You can find more details about volunteering and about the upcoming events the Tracy Aviary offers at  

We’d love to hear about other places or ways you’ve been able to volunteer with your family! We are always looking for new ways to get involved in the community.

- Elise Caffee


Helpful Tips
  • Volunteer projects at the Aviary can be done between 9am-4pm most days of the week
  • Plan to spend at least 1.5-2 hours volunteering
  • Prep your kids ahead of time about what to expect and what they will be doing so they can get the most out of the experience and also act respectful at the Aviary
  • Most volunteer activities are best for kids 5+ who are able to stick to a task for a continuous amount of time
  • Bring snacks and water and make sure you know where the bathrooms are. Our kids needed a few breaks while we worked and we were glad we brought snacks.
  • Make it fun and stay positive! We had fun chatting and playing games while we worked so that everyone stayed motivated. When kids got tired we let them take a break and tried to find a new job for them to do to stay engaged.
  • You can find other volunteer opportunities around Salt Lake City by checking out the websites of your favorite local hangouts and parks. Usually the websites will have a “Volunteer” section.

Collette Fri, 05/19/2017 - 09:22

Thank you for this! I wish there were more opportunities to volunteer available for families. We will have to check this out!

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