Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Spreading a Little Cheer Couple Sets Up Bird Houses in Nursing Homes

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Spreading a Little Cheer Couple Sets Up Bird Houses in Nursing Homes

Article excerpt

While staying in a long-term care center after her hip surgery, Leona Longino became depressed and wouldn't leave her room.

But when the 74-year-old Jacksonville woman learned an aviary of finches had been set up in the lobby, she became determined to see those birds.

Each day, she walked farther down the hall of Heartland Health Care Center, until she made it to the lobby.

"The birds really spurred her on. I saw a big difference in her after she saw the birds," said Longino's daughter, Jan Davis, who is the center's administrator.

Tiny finches have become a source of delight for nursing home residents around Jacksonville, thanks to Don and Robin LaByer of the Westside. In the past two years, they have placed 13 little finch settlements in seven nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

You could call them missionaries with aviaries.

To residents, the birds become a source of amazement and wonder.

"They sit and talk about the birds, pray and hope for the eggs to hatch," Davis said. "They watch them intently every day."

It all started two years ago, when the LaByers brought guinea pigs, a bunny rabbit and a cage with four finches to Heartland Health Care Center for residents to enjoy. The residents begged to keep the birds, Don LaByer recalled.

So, the LaByers built an aviary for the Normandy Boulevard facility: a handmade oak cabinet, encased in safety glass with an air-filtering system to keep feathers, seeds and debris out of the air.

And their ministry, called Touched by His Love, was born. They invested their savings into it, and have begun charging nursing homes a monthly fee.

The LaByers say they basically break even.

And they can't keep up with the requests for more aviaries in other nursing homes. They are now seeking corporate or private sponsors to support more aviaries.

"Our time is totally taxed," Don LaByer said.

Cleaning cages and caring for the birds twice a week at all 13 locations has become a full-time job for the LaByers. Robin, 41, is a homemaker. Don, 55, retired in 1997 from the Florida Air National Guard in Jacksonville.

Each aviary has about eight finches -- and counting -- as it is now hatching season. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.