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Adult day care enlists flamingos for fundraiser

POSTED: June 24, 2008 5:00 a.m.
TOM REED/The Times

Plastic flamingos are being used as a fundraiser for The Guest House. Volunteers put the flamingos on someone's lawn and the resident who has been "flocked" has to make a donation to get rid of the birds.

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It’s a sight that has some Gainesville drivers wondering if they’re hallucinating. Did they really see a yard full of pink flamingos?

Yes indeed, but it’s not a case of migratory birds getting blown way off course. The flamingos are plastic, and their purpose is to grab your attention.

Over the next couple of weeks, flamingos will be congregating on lawns throughout Hall County, helping to raise funds for the Guest House, an adult day care center for people with Alzheimer’s and other age-related conditions.

"We hope to raise about $15,000," said Jocelyn Pryor, director of the Guest House. "We decided to do this (flamingo project) because it’s fun and it’s different."

Here’s how it works: There are five "flocks" of six flamingos each. One flock has been making the rounds of local businesses, to raise awareness about the Guest House.

"With businesses, we get their permission ahead of time," said Pryor.

But the other four flocks are showing up in front of people’s houses with no advance warning.

"We put them there without the residents’ knowledge," she said. "To get rid of the flamingos, they make a contribution."

Well, they’re politely invited to contribute. This isn’t extortion. "If someone doesn’t want to donate, that’s fine," Pryor said. "They can just call us and we’ll remove the flamingos."

She said the Guest House’s board of directors has tried to select people who are likely to be good sports about it.

"The flamingos usually stay two or three days at each place, and the resident can suggest someone else to ‘flock,’" Pryor said.

Dixon Drive resident James Mathis Jr. was surprised Thursday when the flamingos showed up in his yard.

"They had been across the street in attorney Lydia Sartain’s yard, and somehow they migrated to our house this morning," he said.

When contacted Thursday afternoon, Mathis hadn’t even had a chance to read the sign explaining that the pink birds are part of a Guest House fundraiser. "I thought they belonged to Lydia," he said.

When it was explained to Mathis that he gets to choose who gets "flocked" next, he liked the concept.

"It’s humorous," he said.

Pryor said if your lawn doesn’t happen to be among those visited by the flamingos, you can donate directly to the Guest House anytime. The nonprofit relies on fundraising to cover about 15 percent of its $400,000 annual budget.

The Guest House provides elderly patients with mentally stimulating activities and medical monitoring in a safe environment, while giving family members a break from their caregiving duties.



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