An Interview with Tails of NYC RescueMen

Joey Luther with his rescue dog, Bebe, and a baby bird newly admitted to Wild Bird Fund.

I recently had the privilege of attending the latest photo shoot for the Tails of NYC RescueMen 2016 calendar, held at the Wild Bird Fund on Columbus Avenue in Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

Felicia Greenfield and Jen Halpern, creators of the Tails of NYC RescueMen calendar.

RescueMen chooses inspirational men who have rescued animals of their own to showcase in the calendar. These men are photographed with the animal(s) they rescued, and the story of each heroic rescue is included. This ingenious project began as a collaboration between casting director Jen Halpern and actress Felicia Greenfield, both of whom were already involved in charitable organizations providing enrichment items for Animal Care and Control and other shelters in NYC. The goal of RescueMen is to raise awareness about the plight of rescue animals and to promote the message “Adopt, Don’t Shop!”

The Wild Bird Fund is housed at 565 Columbus Avenue in NYC.

When I arrived at the Wild Bird Fund, I was surprised to find this wildlife rehabilitation center located in an unassuming storefront on Columbus Avenue. I probably would have passed right by without noticing the only clinic for injured wildlife in the city. What was more amazing was the variety of birds being treated at the clinic and the number of volunteers already hard at work by 9:15 a.m. Director Rita McMahon opened the clinic in this location in 2012 and runs completely on donations and volunteers.

IMG_1195It was easy to see why model Joey Luther was selected as the day’s hero as he effortlessly lifted his 11-year old rescue dog, Bebe, onto his shoulder and nonchalantly held a baby bird in his other hand. Joey’s ease with all of the animals was evident, particularly with the wild birds. I was impressed with his gentle but firm manner and his obvious comfort in handling a variety of animals.

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Director Rita McMahon accepts a new admission to the clinic.

Joey later told me that his first experience with a bird was seven years ago when he tried to save a nestling sparrow—this rescue attempt led him to Rita McMahon and he has been a Wild Bird Fund volunteer ever since. He is now a certified wildlife rehabilitator and assists with the Wild Bird Fund’s education program, introducing inner city children to the extensive diversity of wild bird species and their needs.

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Photographer Petra Romano captures Joey with Sir Quack and Little Peep, an inseparable pair rescued from a child’s Easter basket.
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Makeup artist Brenda O’Brien gets Joey ready for the shoot.

The 2016 calendar will be the second publication of Tails of NYC RescueMen. Their photographer, Petra Romano, and makeup artist, Brenda O’Brien, have both been a part of the project since its inception and clearly enjoy it just as much as Jen and Felicia.

Felicia Greenfield founded Grandpa Dave’s Creature Comforts about five years ago, collecting new and used toys, treats, bedding and linens for animals at AC&C and other local shelters. Grandpa Dave's Creature Comforts full picAbout a year later, Jen Halpern started Pillows for PawsPillows for Paws to provide handmade toys and beds to AC&C and other nonprofit rescue groups. When Jen and Felicia met on a Skype interview in 2012, a natural partnership formed and eventually resulted in the RescueMen collaboration. Both strongly believe in the need for enrichment items to provide warmth, security, and mental stimulation for shelter animals waiting for adoption.

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Making friends with Ben!

There are many ways to get involved and support the cause. The Wild Bird Fund is always looking for volunteers and donations. Everyone is very friendly and it seems like a great place to work. One of the highlights of my day was meeting Ben, the one-eyed cardinal, a long-time resident of Wild Bird Fund.

Jen’s organization, Pillows for Paws, holds a monthly craft circle where participants can help make items for donation. Check out the Pillows for Paws website and sign up on the mailing list to find out about upcoming dates.  Felicia’s organization, Grandpa Dave’s Creature Comforts, accepts donations of new and used pet items. You can also come to the NYC Pet Tails comedy benefit show, Applause for Paws, on May 26th and support our crowdfunding campaign and Second Chance Rescue in the Bronx.

IMG_1270The Tails of NYC RescueMen 2016 calendar can be purchased online as soon as it is published—stay tuned to the RescueMen website for details!RescueMen logo