My friends and I haven’t exchanged birthday gifts in years. Suddenly, though, it’s becoming a custom for the “birthday victim” to name a charity and ask friends to donate.

Between the virus and its impact on the economy at every level, our nation is financially crippled.

I agonized over this and discovered a charity that actually solicits “junk,” items women use and discard regularly. The Appalachian Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina collects used mascara wands.

The refuge learned that these brushes, pieces of plastic that add to our landfill problem, could serve as medical instruments. The wands’ soft, compact bristles remove larvae, fly eggs, infection-causing dirt and more from fur and feathers. 

They can be used to apply ointments, and are the perfect size to swab out feeding syringes for seriously ill critters.

A small organization, they could collect wands only in fall and spring. I first spoke to them in May.

AWR put their “quaran-time” hours to good use. 

The mission of AWR was originally to help ailing wildlife in Appalachia, but similar wildlife treatment centers worldwide need wands, too.

Trained medical technicians should not be washing wands; they should be saving lives. The administrators at AWR spun off Wands for Wildlife as a separate nonprofit entity.

This allows the public to donate year-round. You don’t need me. The woman I spoke to last week said women can toss discards in a baggie or jar and, when they feel they have enough to fill, say, a 6x9 manila envelope, they can visit the new Wands website and obtain a form and address.


Gertrude update

Bringing our animal concerns full circle, area folks claim Gertrude the peacock is back. A young woman snapped a photo, and I’m posting one of mine.

Gertrude has a higher crown (by a good half-inch). Her blue-green feathers are more predominantly on her back.

“Madam X” has more color in front, such as a necklace, and also seems to be wearing a white apron.

To confirm, I phoned Gertie’s adoptive family. Their property is enclosed by what I call “Roy Rogers” fencing, plus their fowl area is encased in mesh.

It’s not “Peacock Alcatraz.”

Openings allow the birds to romp, and the farm is well-staffed and supervised.

Gertie and Calvin have started a family. I love happy beginnings!

Michele Mikesic Bender is a Johnstown resident and regular community columnist for The Tribune-Democrat.​ She can be reached at

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