The Fairfax gets Audubon Society Certification

Publish Date:

Friday, July 24, 2015 9:25 pm EDT

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Fairfax Times

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Sunrise Senior Living says it is proud to announce that the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia certified The Fairfax, a military retirement community in Fort Belvoir, as a wildlife sanctuary.

“We have certified many residences, schools and other properties as wildlife sanctuaries, but The Fairfax is the first and only senior living community to be certified as a wildlife sanctuary. It’s a tribute to resident Jim Harkin’s hard work and love of nature,” said Betsy Martin, Audubon at Home ambassador, who worked with Harkin and coordinates the program in Fairfax County.

Beginning in 2012, The Fairfax resident and retired Navy officer, Capt. James Harkin, began working with the Audubon at Home program of the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia to encourage more birds, butterflies and other wildlife to visit the community’s picturesque campus, which includes a seven-acre lake and numerous green trails.

In order to meet the strict standards for certification as a wildlife sanctuary, Harkin, Sunrise team members and several other residents planted native plants that provide food and shelter for wildlife, reduced pesticide and fertilizer use, and removed invasive species. They observed 10 sanctuary species actually using the property – building nests, feeding and foraging, and raising young, qualifying the property as a wildlife sanctuary.

“We are all so proud of the hard work that Captain Harkin has put into this project,” said Carla Shipley, executive director at The Fairfax. “At Sunrise, we support our residents to celebrate their passions and are thrilled by how much joy this has brought them and their families. We encourage our residents to assist Captain Harkin with this particular activity, since according to experts, as well as research from Harvard University, exposure to nature is associated with better physical and mental health due to increased exposure to natural light and more exercise.”

Supported by Harkin’s hard work, more than 40 species of birds and butterflies have found a home at The Fairfax wildlife sanctuary.

“The entire project has inspired a spirit of camaraderie and fun among residents. You can find them repairing birdhouses and working on the grounds, alongside Captain Harkin,” added Shipley.

Harkin and a few resident volunteers work to attract more monarch butterflies to the wildlife sanctuary. Monarch populations have declined drastically in recent decades, primarily due to loss of habitat, and are proposed for listing on the federal endangered species list. Harkin, The Fairfax and their landscaping company planted a butterfly way station and pollinator garden. Harkin’s goal is to bring back some of these butterflies with the continued help of his community.

Sunrise Senior Living says it encourages residents’ independence as well as provides unique programming and activities that enrich the mind, body and spirit. Each Sunrise community has an activities and volunteer coordinator who leads the development of an extensive programming calendar tailored to the unique needs and interests of residents.

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