The Home Depot Foundation has responded in record time to a grant request made by the Parks at Chehaw zoo curator, Jan Thompson.
Securing $5,000 from the Community Affairs division of the nationwide chain in just a few weeks, Thompson directed the funds to complete some outside additions and renovations to the new meerkat exhibit. The meerkat facility is an attractive, accessible, and provocative pavilion to young and old alike. The grant was used to purchase all the materials needed for landscaping, and the construction of a large viewing deck around the meerkats new home.
But Home Depot did not stop at supplies. They then sent out a team to do a lot of the work. Chehaw personnel prepared the area, and then a Home Depot Team from the Albany store installed the decking, laid out a huge amount of mulch, and did much of the landscaping. Thompson says, “They were a great bunch of people, very enthusiastic, a lot of fun to work with, and they seemed to have a good time.” She said that in a matter of about four hours, “Quite a big transformation took place.” When you see the facility, the original design and construction work done by Chehaw, and the additional work offered by Home Depot, you can get a real sense of progress toward something very special and unique. Thompson is really pleased with the way it is turning out.
Before Home Depot stepped up, she was concerned that she may have to scrap her landscaping plans. The grant not only kept things on track, but gave Chehaw a new and valuable business partnership. “This really came through for us, and it was a great opportunity to build a relationship with them.” Thompson said the speed with which the funds were made available was amazing, taking just a couple of weeks from the time she submitted the formal grant request. Normally, such a request may take months to go through the proper channels.
This partnership actually started the other way around. According to Thompson, someone that works at Home Depot had visited Chehaw, saw the initial meerkat construction underway, thought it would be a good project for them to take on, and then told Thompson who she should contact at the Home Depot Foundation to get the ball rolling. She specifically wanted to thank Home Depot’s Rian Morris, Katina Dawson, and Lynn Fowler, and the staff in the Home Depot garden department for all their help.
The Meerkat facility has an enclosed building so the animals can have protection from the elements, and some privacy, as it is not accessible to visitors, and a large outdoor public viewing area that includes tunnels in artificial termite mounds. Termite mounds are natural settings for Meerkats in the wild. A play area adjacent to the exhibit, will be finished out to resemble the same mound and tunnel look, so that children we be able to experience the same environment as that of meerkats, going through tunnels and “standing watch” in raised areas, as meerkats do. It’s sure to be a big hit with the youngsters. Another interesting element is a special viewing window that will provide a look underneath the dirt, showing the animals amazing burrowing skills.
Thanks to some great teamwork between Chehaw and Home Depot, there’s a busy bunch of meerkats scurrying about, keeping a watchful eye on a busy bunch of Southwest Georgia’s little ones, who themselves will be scurrying about, keeping a watchful eye right back on the meerkats. Parents, there are plenty of new tables and benches nearby, where you can relax and keep an eye on the whole busy bunch of them. Sounds like fun for all ages.
Written by Lon McNeil.