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News Community Hand-crafted bluebird houses benefit KIDS Place

Local craftsmen, John Gallant and Nick Bolli, are building bluebird houses to benefit KIDS Place. Each birdhouse is handmade in Gallant’s workshop. Above, Gallant puts the finishing touches on one of their creations. Photos by Christopher CarpenterCare to invite bluebirds to your home while supporting a good cause? For the third year in a row, unique bluebird houses built by Franklin-area craftsmen are being sold to benefit KIDS Place.

Founded in 1991, KIDS Place is a private, nonprofit agency with the mission of providing “hope and healing for abused children and their families through coordinated services in a child-friendly place.”

This year, local craftsmen John Gallant and Nick Bolli are constructing the birdhouses, taking over for Fred Slagle who started the project three years ago. “We enjoy making them, and it’s for a really important cause,” said Gallant, who predicted that they would sell more than 100 bluebird houses this year.

Simply designed to be hung from a tree or fence post, the birdhouses include a wire predator guard, made by Carl McSween, which surrounds the entrance to keep snakes and other “varmints” from reaching the nest. One side of the birdhouse can be opened for seasonal cleaning.

This year, Gallant and Bolli have added their own personal flare to the houses with a classy bevelled edge on the roof for the more discerning bluebird family. They’ve also added air holes, which Gallant says was his wife’s idea. According to Gallant, the birdhouses should be mounted on a tree or fence post five to six feet from the ground by a lawn or large grassy area.

The website www.bluebirdsforever.com says that while there is no specific compass direction that bluebirds prefer, it is recommended that the birdhouses be placed facing another tree or shrub within 100 feet in order to allow the birds a view of the entrance from another perch. This also provides the young hatchlings a safe place to land on their first flight from the nest. While bluebirds are territorial when breeding, generally claiming areas of two to three acres, a second birdhouse nearby may be occupied by sparrows and ensure that one is left open for the bluebirds.

The KIDS Place bluebird houses include specially designed predator guards, built by Carl McSween, to keep snakes and other “varmints” from reaching the nest.Gallant and Bolli put the birdhouses together in Gallant’s workshop behind his home on Donna Drive. All the wood used for the project has been donated, said Gallant, who added that using the right kind of wood is important because bluebirds don’t like the odor of some woods. “They really like pine, cedar and poplar,” he explained.

“We are just so grateful,” said KIDS Place Executive Director, Alicia Ashe of the efforts of the birdhouse builders. “What a wonderful thing to do, not only to give the bluebirds a home, but to help abused children in Macon County.”

According to Ashe, the agency is going through one of its toughest years financially and proceeds from the birdhouses will help fill severe gaps in its budget. “The money will be used to help us pay for things that we just can’t find grant funding to pay for, from the power bill to the water bill to counseling and case management,” she explained.

Ashe, who is the only full-time staff member of KIDS Place, noted that part of her job entails finding funds to make sure that all children are able to receive counseling and assistance, not just those who qualify for medicaid or other sources. In addition to Ashe, the agency employs a part-time case manager/forensic interviewer and a part-time victim advocate. Two therapists work on a contractual basis to provide counseling. Accredited by the National Children’s Alliance, all services offered by KIDS Place are free to the children and families who need them.

While funding has gotten tighter in recent years, Ashe says that the community has continued to be very supportive of their work. “Macon County has never stopped taking care of the children,” she remarked. “Those individuals out there that buy the birdhouses and write us a check on a regular basis, those are the folks that really do ensure that we can continue to provide quality services for abused children in Macon County.”

The birdhouses are available for $10 a piece and may be purchased at the office of The Macon County News on Highlands Rd. or at Going Postal on Depot St. They will also be available at the Strawberry Festival on May 28 at Memorial United Methodist Church as well as at the Franklin Folk Festival in June. All proceeds go to KIDS Place.

To learn more about KIDS Place, call (828)524-3199. For more information about the bluebird houses, call John Gallant at (828)524-9229.


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