Pass the Bird

Hood River man translates turkeys into treasure for local charities

WORRIED AND WARY, this native wild turkey, whose wide-eyed gaze perhaps implies awareness of the upcoming holiday and the central role she might take, was photographed on the eastside of Hood River off of Old Dalles Road. Some of her domesticated cousins will soon be part of Ted James’ annual fundraiser project. James raises and processes turkeys each year to give away. He hopes his turkey recipients will then pass along the “thanksgiving” by making cash donations to local charities.

Photo by Adam Lapierre.
WORRIED AND WARY, this native wild turkey, whose wide-eyed gaze perhaps implies awareness of the upcoming holiday and the central role she might take, was photographed on the eastside of Hood River off of Old Dalles Road. Some of her domesticated cousins will soon be part of Ted James’ annual fundraiser project. James raises and processes turkeys each year to give away. He hopes his turkey recipients will then pass along the “thanksgiving” by making cash donations to local charities.

If you’ve gone on the annual “Tour de Coop” in which dozens of local poultry enthusiasts show off their fowl farms each summer, then you may already know about Ted James and his bird farm. What you may not know is that James has turned his poultry passtime into something that benefits the community.

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THE BIRD MAN of Hood River, Ted James, has turned his retirement into an experiment in how to build community. One of his projects involves sharing his love of poultry-husbandry by giving away turkeys each year and encouraging his recipients to donate to local charities in return. James’ farm is one of the featured stops on the annual Tour de Coop and houses poultry species from many countries – including African Cranes, Asian pheasants and a plethora of exotic chicken breeds.

James, a retired financier, operates a model hobby farm for pheasants, chickens, turkeys and other feather friends on the Westside. His mini-city of avian abodes is a routine stop on the tour. The surprise about James’ farm is its results: Each year for the past six years, James has transformed his fowl-fun into a formidable fundraiser.

“I believe in building community. If I really enjoy something (like raising birds), I try to find a way to offer benefits to the community in that.”

That philosophy led James to search for a community benefit that might be gained from his love of turkey rearing.

“I believe in the honor system,” said James. “I raise and process the turkeys and then give them to people for Thanksgiving.”

It is the turkey gift that James hopes will in turn inspire the recipients to give cash to local nonprofits in honor of the season.

The good news is that past turkey beneficiaries have, in fact, donated cash to the Columbia Center for the Arts, FISH food bank and other local charities, as a way to enjoy James’ gift and “paying it forward.”

Last year, James raised 45 turkeys and processed 39 of them himself in below-freezing weather before his pre-Thanksgiving delivery date. That was his biggest fundraiser since beginning the novel fundraising model.

“My lovely wife Helen asked that I limit myself this year so that I would be better able to enjoy our own family Thanksgiving,” said James with slight smile. “Last year was a little rough on my carpal tunnel.” It seems that James listened to his wife’s plea and this year’s donations will number closer to seven or eight.

But that isn’t the end of James’ turkey-trade-ups, nor his only option to build community. He continues to provide ongoing literacy instruction to a college student and his friends. He also donates workshops in printmaking (he’s a successful artist himself) so that schools and other nonprofits benefit from the netted donations students offer for their workshops.

And, there is a bigger idea brewing in James’ plan to pass along the “get involved and give-back” idea.

James has been researching several other large communities that hold an annual farmer/rancher donation and sale day. He hopes to bring that model to Hood River.

“Ranchers and farmers show up at a public school loaded up with excess produce or product to donate. People come and buy up the items and the proceeds go back into the community through donations to nonprofit groups. I’d like to see something like that happen here.”

It is hard to think of a better way of offering thanks for a year of bounty than by sharing it with others. James’ turkey-turn-around and ideas for inspiring others is certainly a unique way of expressing the season’s sentiments.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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