Igniting Passion for the Future with Nancy Parker
Episode 11523rd June 2023 • Total Michigan • Cliff Duvernois
00:00:00 00:29:14

Share Episode

Shownotes

Saginaw, Michigan is undergoing a renaissance. It's full of people working hard to turn this city around. This brought me to Nancy Parker, the Executive Director of the Saginaw Zoo. In this episode, she shares her journey literally starting from scratch to become the person in charge of delighting families and igniting passion in our children's futures.

In this episode, we talk about:

  • Igniting a science passion in kids
  • The importance of community
  • What you can expect when you got the zoo

If you want to get these episodes delivered straight to your inbox, just go to https://totalmichigan.com/join

Transcripts

Speaker:

Nancy Parker, Saginaw Children's Zoo: So for myself, I didn't, I worked

Speaker:

myself up, so I was a president of a company and running a company.

Speaker:

But I worked myself up.

Speaker:

I had been a secretary, I had been an accounting clerk.

Speaker:

I had, I did all those things.

Speaker:

So I knew how it worked.

Speaker:

I knew how it functioned.

Speaker:

And so I think all that.

Speaker:

So it wasn't as though, it was my journey through life, I think that

Speaker:

prepared me to do what I'm doing now.

Cliff Duvernois:

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Total Michigan.

Cliff Duvernois:

I'm your host, Cliff DuVernois.

Cliff Duvernois:

It pleases me to no end When I see a group of people that are working very

Cliff Duvernois:

hard to bring a community back, and one of the communities that has just

Cliff Duvernois:

absolutely just been going through an absolute renaissance is Saginaw, Michigan.

Cliff Duvernois:

I've actually got the honor and the privilege today to speak to one of those

Cliff Duvernois:

people who are working hard to make Saginaw a place that people want to come.

Cliff Duvernois:

They wanna bring their kids, and they just want to hang out with

Cliff Duvernois:

all kinds of activities going on.

Cliff Duvernois:

With that, I am speaking with Nancy Parker.

Cliff Duvernois:

She's the executive director of the Saginaw Children's Zoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy, how are you?

Cliff Duvernois:

I'm doing great.

Cliff Duvernois:

Excellent.

Cliff Duvernois:

Thank you for taking time to be with us today.

Cliff Duvernois:

Glad to be here.

Cliff Duvernois:

Why don't you tell us a little bit about where you're from and where you grew up.

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy Parker, Saginaw Children's Zoo: I grew up right here in the area.

Cliff Duvernois:

I grew up in Carlton.

Cliff Duvernois:

Graduated from Carlton High School,

Cliff Duvernois:

Nice.

Cliff Duvernois:

Right around the corner.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

And then after you got outta high school, you went to college?

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy Parker, Saginaw Children's Zoo: I went to several colleges actually.

Cliff Duvernois:

I moved out of the area.

Cliff Duvernois:

I moved to Ohio and I was married at the time.

Cliff Duvernois:

My husband was transferred.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so I went to a couple different schools.

Cliff Duvernois:

I went to Indiana University at Fort Wayne.

Cliff Duvernois:

I went to Northwestern University and then ended up on the West Coast

Cliff Duvernois:

and graduated at Purdue, not Purdue.

Cliff Duvernois:

Oh.

Cliff Duvernois:

Pepperdine.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay.

Cliff Duvernois:

And what did you study when you were in college

Cliff Duvernois:

Business.

Cliff Duvernois:

Now what made you decide to study business?

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy Parker, Saginaw Children's Zoo: Always liked it.

Cliff Duvernois:

got, I did different jobs in different companies.

Cliff Duvernois:

And I'm one of those people who likes to watch and see what happens.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so I watched people in all kinds of companies as I moved around and I

Cliff Duvernois:

thought I could do that, I could do that.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so I, it just found a fondness for it, I guess.

Cliff Duvernois:

Now, you were talking before you mentioned about

Cliff Duvernois:

you and your husband had moved around to a couple different states.

Cliff Duvernois:

And I can imagine that it's probably this little curly path.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes, exactly.

Cliff Duvernois:

Going from business.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

Cause you're talking about business.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

To now moving into like nonprofits.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

So share with us, how did you get connected with the zoo in the first

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy Parker, Saginaw Children's Zoo: place?

Cliff Duvernois:

Mm-hmm.

Cliff Duvernois:

Well, I, decided to move back to Saginaw.

Cliff Duvernois:

I had lost my father.

Cliff Duvernois:

My mother needed some help.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so I thought it makes sense to come back to Michigan.

Cliff Duvernois:

Always loved Michigan.

Cliff Duvernois:

And when I came back it was what would I do?

Cliff Duvernois:

And so I thought I could translate my for-profit skills to a not-for-profit.

Cliff Duvernois:

And I, worked with the Shaheen family, which is a wonderful family.

Cliff Duvernois:

It's done a lot of good in the, in, the city of Saginaw and the county of Saginaw.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

And actually beyond Saginaw.

Cliff Duvernois:

They're a wonderful family.

Cliff Duvernois:

And I got introduced to, someone who said the zoo job is open.

Cliff Duvernois:

And when, I've been a nature lover my whole life, I'd rather be sitting

Cliff Duvernois:

under a tree than in a five star hotel.

Cliff Duvernois:

So that's just me.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so I thought, wow, I could go to the zoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

And I came here in 2004 and have been here ever since.

Cliff Duvernois:

Cause I know we talked about, talk about translating

Cliff Duvernois:

of your skills, but we're talking about the executive director of a zoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

So you've gotten some experience.

Cliff Duvernois:

So why don't you talk with us about, when you first learned about the job,

Cliff Duvernois:

what made you think that you were qualified, or what qualifications

Cliff Duvernois:

did you have that you thought this, that I would be a good fit for this?

Cliff Duvernois:

Mm-hmm.

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy Parker, Saginaw Children's Zoo: one is that I, I.

Cliff Duvernois:

A science lover and we're a lot about science.

Cliff Duvernois:

And then, and, businesses all have some very common threads,

Cliff Duvernois:

whether they're for profit or notfor profit, different functions.

Cliff Duvernois:

and that.

Cliff Duvernois:

And the one piece that I did not have was, to have a responsibility for fundraising.

Cliff Duvernois:

And that is very much connected with not-for-profits.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so that was, fast learning schedule.

Cliff Duvernois:

But on the other side of it, I had participated in fundraising being

Cliff Duvernois:

part of businesses because businesses typically work with not-for-profits.

Cliff Duvernois:

Certainly.

Cliff Duvernois:

So I saw fundraising from the other side of it.

Cliff Duvernois:

And then, as I came here, was responsible for it.

Cliff Duvernois:

When you came in here, what were some of the things that

Cliff Duvernois:

making that transition from private to nonprofit, what were some of those like

Cliff Duvernois:

transitions that, that you encountered that you thought, okay, this is

Cliff Duvernois:

gonna be a little bit of a challenge?

Cliff Duvernois:

Or how did you ha adapt

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy Parker, Saginaw Children's Zoo: yourself?

Cliff Duvernois:

One of the things and not for profits is that, you never have enough people.

Cliff Duvernois:

in.

Cliff Duvernois:

When you're working for a for-profit business, you

Cliff Duvernois:

typically have more resources.

Cliff Duvernois:

You have more access to resources.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so in this job, you really have to do everything from A to Z.

Cliff Duvernois:

It's just the way that not-for-profits work.

Cliff Duvernois:

So for myself, I didn't, I worked myself up, so I was a president of

Cliff Duvernois:

a company and running a company.

Cliff Duvernois:

But I worked myself up.

Cliff Duvernois:

I had been a secretary, I had been an accounting clerk.

Cliff Duvernois:

I had, I did all those things.

Cliff Duvernois:

So I knew how it worked.

Cliff Duvernois:

I knew how it functioned.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so I think all that.

Cliff Duvernois:

So it wasn't as though, it was my journey through life, I think that

Cliff Duvernois:

prepared me to do what I'm doing now.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so when you came to the zoo, what were some of the

Cliff Duvernois:

projects that you started, what were some of the initiatives that you brought

Cliff Duvernois:

here to try to, to help out the zoo?

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy Parker, Saginaw Children's Zoo: I need to tell you a little bit

Cliff Duvernois:

about the history of the zoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

Perfect.

Cliff Duvernois:

The zoo was, we're a very old zoo, 1929, and it was in the eighties.

Cliff Duvernois:

It was run by the city.

Cliff Duvernois:

And in the eighties there was a group of community citizens that decided

Cliff Duvernois:

that they were going to take the zoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

They worked with the city to take the zoo over to have a management

Cliff Duvernois:

agreement to operate the zoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so it's really within that group of people that the zoo is here today.

Cliff Duvernois:

And when they took it over, they started to build things.

Cliff Duvernois:

And that's 30 years ago now.

Cliff Duvernois:

But they started to really build some new buildings and all these buildings at

Cliff Duvernois:

the top end of the zoo, they're all new.

Cliff Duvernois:

And if you come in through our admissions gate, all that was built

Cliff Duvernois:

by the people who took the zoo over.

Cliff Duvernois:

So when I came in, all that work had been started.

Cliff Duvernois:

But there was still a lot of work to be done.

Cliff Duvernois:

It wasn't, and I guess in the zoo it's never done really.

Cliff Duvernois:

But we had an area in the lower part of the zoo that was an old pond.

Cliff Duvernois:

And, the lower part of our zoo kind of walks around a circle with

Cliff Duvernois:

exhibits, but in the center of it was this old concrete dilapidated pond.

Cliff Duvernois:

So that was the first project that we tackled.

Cliff Duvernois:

And we created a wetlands.

Cliff Duvernois:

We can walk around.

Cliff Duvernois:

You can see it very different.

Cliff Duvernois:

And that just brightened up the whole lower area of the zoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

And they had started adopt a Garden program before I came.

Cliff Duvernois:

Actually, our horticultural committee started that program.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so we have now all these beautiful gardens all along our walkways.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so there were many things that had been started that then we took those

Cliff Duvernois:

things and did more and there were other things like that pond that was in really

Cliff Duvernois:

need of work that we created at wetlands.

Cliff Duvernois:

So that sounds absolutely beautiful.

Cliff Duvernois:

My question to you is, cuz you said that the zoo was started back in 1929.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

So of the people that put this together in your research, did you run across

Cliff Duvernois:

anybody who really explained why they felt that Saginaw should have a zoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy Parker, Saginaw Children's Zoo: Point in time where, the

Cliff Duvernois:

community was suffering?

Cliff Duvernois:

it was after the lumbering era.

Cliff Duvernois:

And the city leaders started to focus on culture.

Cliff Duvernois:

So they started the zoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

The Coral Society started.

Cliff Duvernois:

The symphony started.

Cliff Duvernois:

All these things started in the community back in that time when

Cliff Duvernois:

the community was challenged.

Cliff Duvernois:

And the zoo was one of 'em.

Cliff Duvernois:

And it was, some land and it was Native Michigan animals really.

Cliff Duvernois:

raccoons, bears, fox.

Cliff Duvernois:

It was that type of thing.

Cliff Duvernois:

So then the original animals to the

Cliff Duvernois:

zoo were just local animals?

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

Yes.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

Animals you'd find in the woods.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

Most people's backyards.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

Right.

Cliff Duvernois:

You're depending on where you live.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes, yes, yes, definitely.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay, that's really good.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay, you were talking before about expanding some of these areas.

Cliff Duvernois:

Doing a lot of work as far as the beautification goes.

Cliff Duvernois:

Now, over your tenure here and doing these, what has been like the impact?

Cliff Duvernois:

Have you seen like attendance go up because of this?

Cliff Duvernois:

Have you seen more people coming and, maybe traveling from out of state?

Cliff Duvernois:

What are, what is the results that you've been seeing?

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

Yes.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

we really have right now about 110,000 people coming here.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

And we draw from about a 60 mile radius, around our facility.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

And sometimes a little further than that.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

but we are too.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

People think of us just from April to October, and that's our zoo season.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

But we are so much more than that.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

We're really a year-round facility.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

Not just in taking care of animals, but also we do programming.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

And so in the wintertime we do a program called Living Learning Lab.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

And that is third grade students coming at into this room that we're in right now.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

And and that, and they have a school, a day of school here at the zoo.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

And we find that the kids love that program because,

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

there's no one else in the zoo.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

So in third grade where they learn inference and observation,

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

they're going out into the zoo and it's their zoo for the day.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

And so it's a really wonderful program.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

We've had it going now for, we've had 10 years of programming.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

Couldn't do it during the pandemic and that, but, it's really wonderful program.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

And we do, a series of questions at the beginning so we know where

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

the kids are starting, cuz not all classes start at the same level.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

Sure.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

they may be at different levels.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

And then we ask those same questions at the end and so we know Did they

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

learn something while they were here?

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

And also we know from those questions initially how to adjust or adapt our

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

program so that we can really, our whole goal is to reach the children and for

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

them to have a wonderful day at the zoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

So then, if I understand correctly, you're

Cliff Duvernois:

basically open year round?

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

Yes.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

Not to visitors, but we do it in different ways.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

Okay.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

And that's programming where the teachers actually schedule

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

their class to come here.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

And Yeah.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

Yep.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

And it's formal programming.

Cliff Duvernois:

I noticed that when the zoo opened back in April timeframe, I.

Cliff Duvernois:

That there was a lot of press coverage about the lines.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

Like everywhere.

Cliff Duvernois:

And I, that's the first time, that's when you and I first started talking.

Cliff Duvernois:

And I was like, you know what, that's a good sign.

Cliff Duvernois:

That bodes well.

Cliff Duvernois:

Because if nobody was there on opening day, that would be bad.

Cliff Duvernois:

The lines were there.

Cliff Duvernois:

And even today, so you've been open now for a few months.

Cliff Duvernois:

And even today when I came in, there's just cars everywhere.

Cliff Duvernois:

There's a line at the front gate next to the polar bear.

Cliff Duvernois:

And this is just incredible.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

yes.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

today is drop everything and read, and that's an event that we do every year.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

And we love to partner with other community organizations, and that's the

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

Reed organization that does that event.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

And every child gets a free book.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

There's all kinds of activities going on in the zoo, We love it.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

We really don't like to be here by ourselves.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

We really much prefer having that people,

Cliff Duvernois:

our animals do too.

Cliff Duvernois:

Nice.

Cliff Duvernois:

For our audience, we're gonna take a quick break to thank our sponsors and

Cliff Duvernois:

when we come back, Nancy's gonna share with us how to make the best of your

Cliff Duvernois:

visit to the Saginaw Children's Zoos.

Cliff Duvernois:

We'll see after the break.

Cliff Duvernois:

Are you enjoying these amazing stories?

Cliff Duvernois:

Michigan is full of people doing some pretty extraordinary things.

Cliff Duvernois:

If you want these amazing stories sent directly to your inbox, head

Cliff Duvernois:

over to total michigan.com/join.

Cliff Duvernois:

What are you gonna get?

Cliff Duvernois:

I'm glad you asked.

Cliff Duvernois:

First, you're gonna join our awesome Michigan community.

Cliff Duvernois:

Second, you'll get an email with the top five interviews from the

Cliff Duvernois:

show sent directly to your inbox.

Cliff Duvernois:

This is going to include not only the powerful lessons that we've

Cliff Duvernois:

learned, but the amazing stories that these people have to share.

Cliff Duvernois:

Third, you'll get exclusive behind the scenes information about the show.

Cliff Duvernois:

There's a lot of things that are happening to grow this movement beyond the confines

Cliff Duvernois:

of just a radio show and a podcast.

Cliff Duvernois:

To get these goodies, head over to total michigan.com/join.

Cliff Duvernois:

Enter your email and join our awesome community.

Cliff Duvernois:

Hello everyone, and welcome back to Total Michigan.

Cliff Duvernois:

I'm your host, Cliff DuVernois.

Cliff Duvernois:

Today we're talking with Nancy Parker, the executive Director

Cliff Duvernois:

of the Saginaw Children's Zoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

On Nancy.

Cliff Duvernois:

I got a question for you when I came in here today, and was hunting

Cliff Duvernois:

for a parking spot, the one thing that caught my eye coming in, of

Cliff Duvernois:

course, was like the carousel.

Cliff Duvernois:

Mm-hmm.

Cliff Duvernois:

I don't see very many carousels at zoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

But I'm actually a fan of carousels.

Cliff Duvernois:

So why don't you talk to us about where'd that carousel come from?

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy Parker, Saginaw Children's Zoo: Mm-hmm.

Cliff Duvernois:

Well, the carousel this year is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

Cliff Duvernois:

And the carousel was built by a local community group,

Cliff Duvernois:

the Tri-City Wood Carvers.

Cliff Duvernois:

And the Tri-City Wood carvers decided they wanted to build a carousel.

Cliff Duvernois:

And it was about at the same time that a community group

Cliff Duvernois:

was trying to revive the zoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

And the, it was decided to be placed here.

Cliff Duvernois:

And it's wonderful.

Cliff Duvernois:

It is all.

Cliff Duvernois:

carved, hand carved?

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

All we have, horses and we also have some carved benches.

Cliff Duvernois:

it has carved running boards on it.

Cliff Duvernois:

There are only about 136 of these in the United States right now.

Cliff Duvernois:

Wow.

Cliff Duvernois:

So we feel very lucky that, we have one at the zoo and that a group from

Cliff Duvernois:

the community was willing to do it.

Cliff Duvernois:

And the community also helped the wood carvers by donating funds to the carousel.

Cliff Duvernois:

So it's really quite a beautiful, we love our carousel.

Cliff Duvernois:

It is, and I think about I.

Cliff Duvernois:

just the number of kids that would just climb on that day after day.

Cliff Duvernois:

And the fact that they actually made it outta wood versus stamping horses on a

Cliff Duvernois:

metal or something, and painting them.

Cliff Duvernois:

So it would you have that durability?

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

Yes.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

Yes.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

Today a lot of 'em are fiberglass and but we can get you a ride on that.

Cliff Duvernois:

Oh, that would be funny.

Cliff Duvernois:

I have to look at my Instagram page for a photo if that actually happens.

Cliff Duvernois:

So wonderful.

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy Parker, Saginaw Children's Zoo: Yeah.

Cliff Duvernois:

the zoos aren't just for little kids.

Cliff Duvernois:

Big kids could have fun too.

Cliff Duvernois:

No, I just remember as a kid, whenever we went to the

Cliff Duvernois:

fair, Cedar Point, someplace like that.

Cliff Duvernois:

It seemed like my always like my favorite ride was always a carousel.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yeah, I like rollercoasters and things like that, but the carousel, there's

Cliff Duvernois:

just something that's just magical about it that I just really love.

Cliff Duvernois:

So that's just pulling into the parking lot was just something that caught my eye.

Cliff Duvernois:

Let's talk about before you were talking about some of the programming

Cliff Duvernois:

around here that happens, like When people think you're closed But

Cliff Duvernois:

you actually have events going on.

Cliff Duvernois:

So talk to us more about some of those events that you got coming up.

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy Parker, Saginaw Children's Zoo: Okay.

Cliff Duvernois:

All season long.

Cliff Duvernois:

and what you see here today is Deere, and that's, an event.

Cliff Duvernois:

We have a variety of different events.

Cliff Duvernois:

Some events are focused on conservation and that, so we'll have

Cliff Duvernois:

different activities in the zoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

Always, there's a full list of those on our website, saginaw zoo.com.

Cliff Duvernois:

And we go through our whole summer season.

Cliff Duvernois:

So there's activities and events.

Cliff Duvernois:

Then at, in October we do our big event that ends our regular

Cliff Duvernois:

zoo season, which is ZooBoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

And ZooBoo is all about Halloween in the zoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

So the zoo's all decorated and our employees dress up.

Cliff Duvernois:

And it's so fun.

Cliff Duvernois:

People love it.

Cliff Duvernois:

They come as families and many times the family, they'll all be, the mom will be

Cliff Duvernois:

dressed up, the dad will be dressed up and the kids, and they'll all dress in theme.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so it's just, oh, how cute.

Cliff Duvernois:

Very fun.

Cliff Duvernois:

And we do different activities around the zoo that are all Halloween themed.

Cliff Duvernois:

It's wonderful.

Cliff Duvernois:

We do that for three weekends in October.

Cliff Duvernois:

When you talk about teachers bringing their students here.

Cliff Duvernois:

You got the classes that are going on, and obviously part of the mission

Cliff Duvernois:

of the zoo is to educate people.

Cliff Duvernois:

We come and look at the animals, but we wanna learn something

Cliff Duvernois:

about the animals that are here.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

So share with us a little bit about how you go about finding the staff that comes

Cliff Duvernois:

in here to be able to share this knowledge and to educate the public, so to speak.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

Many of our people are have science degrees.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

And so those are the individuals who are knowledgeable about science

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

and working with our animals.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

And that, and also individuals who are doing teaching for us would really

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

have, they would have a knowledge of teaching, but also science.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

So we are very much, have a very big part of us that's a scientific

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

part of caring for animals.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

And it's more complicated than what I ever knew before I came

Cliff Duvernois:

here.

Cliff Duvernois:

Certainly.

Cliff Duvernois:

Has it been hard?

Cliff Duvernois:

Cause I know a lot of businesses talk about this, and I can imagine nonprofits

Cliff Duvernois:

getting impacted even more since Covid.

Cliff Duvernois:

Has it been hard to find staff to come in here and work?

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy Parker, Saginaw Children's Zoo: We're always finding staff because we

Cliff Duvernois:

have a, what we call a year-round staff.

Cliff Duvernois:

And those are people who work for us 12 months of the year.

Cliff Duvernois:

But when we open for the season and we have big days, like today,

Cliff Duvernois:

we bring in high school, college students and all that and we ramp up.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so our workforce more than doubles in this time period.

Cliff Duvernois:

So it's always people coming and going, in that way.

Cliff Duvernois:

And it's just something we're used to.

Cliff Duvernois:

And we pride ourselves in being a good place to work.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so many times we'll have a, or a good place to be in general because we have a,

Cliff Duvernois:

youth volunteer program called Zoo Crew.

Cliff Duvernois:

And they, you can volunteer for the zoo at age 13.

Cliff Duvernois:

So we'll have students that come and participate in that program.

Cliff Duvernois:

And then when they get to be 16 and they're in high school, they

Cliff Duvernois:

come to work here in the summer.

Cliff Duvernois:

Nice.

Cliff Duvernois:

And then they go away to college.

Cliff Duvernois:

And then they come back here in work for us in the summer.

Cliff Duvernois:

So many times, we'll have someone who starts with us at 13 as a

Cliff Duvernois:

volunteer and then there until they graduate from college.

Cliff Duvernois:

So we may have a seven or eight year relationship with them.

Cliff Duvernois:

And that's what we really like.

Cliff Duvernois:

We really like to bring people in and bring them along.

Cliff Duvernois:

And many times those, zoo crew volunteers came here as children themselves.

Cliff Duvernois:

So their parents brought 'em here and then, and so it's wonderful.

Cliff Duvernois:

It's like we go through the whole life cycle, It's great.

Cliff Duvernois:

That is cute.

Cliff Duvernois:

I could imagine if a child had a dream of being a zoologist or a veterinarian Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

Or something like that.

Cliff Duvernois:

yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

To actually be able to come here and start to get that experience.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

Then be able to work here, And then you go to class, you learn about it.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

at the university.

Cliff Duvernois:

And then you come back here and kinda get to see it and apply.

Cliff Duvernois:

I can just imagine that's just golden.

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy Parker, Saginaw Children's Zoo: Yes, yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

I, many times in the community I'll, if someone ask me, and say,

Cliff Duvernois:

oh, my son daughter wants to be a veterinarian, and Isaac say, tell

Cliff Duvernois:

him to come volunteer at the zoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

Just tell him to come around us because, they need to sort a lot of that out with

Cliff Duvernois:

their likes and dislikes and all that.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sure.

Cliff Duvernois:

And there's nothing like being right here.

Cliff Duvernois:

And seeing it first firsthand.

Cliff Duvernois:

Let's talk about if I were to bring my family

Cliff Duvernois:

here And I've never been to the Saginaw Children's Zoo before.

Cliff Duvernois:

So already know, if I got little kids or let's just stick with little kids for now.

Cliff Duvernois:

So I've got little kids here, I know there's gonna be line stuff.

Cliff Duvernois:

What are some things that you would recommend parents to think about

Cliff Duvernois:

when they're planning their day?

Cliff Duvernois:

Hey, let's go to the zoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

What are some things that they should think about?

Cliff Duvernois:

Mm-hmm.

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy Parker, Saginaw Children's Zoo: one thing I wanna say, if you're

Cliff Duvernois:

coming in from another community, you could, because it, most people spend

Cliff Duvernois:

about two, two and a half hours here.

Cliff Duvernois:

So if you're coming to spend the day in Saginaw, there are lots of other

Cliff Duvernois:

wonderful things you can also do here.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay.

Cliff Duvernois:

So that's one thing I would say.

Cliff Duvernois:

And, and that because we do have a wonderful children's museum.

Cliff Duvernois:

We've got a great historical museum.

Cliff Duvernois:

And that, so you could plan some other activities.

Cliff Duvernois:

The zoo's located in the kind of park area of Saginaw, the city of Saginaw.

Cliff Duvernois:

So you can bring a picnic and you could do more things like that.

Cliff Duvernois:

As you come to the zoo and you come into the zoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

We have a beautiful carousel, and I wouldn't miss that.

Cliff Duvernois:

I think you really have to just take a little look at it, further

Cliff Duvernois:

because it's really a work of art.

Cliff Duvernois:

And part of the zoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

I.

Cliff Duvernois:

We have animals, we have all these wonderful gardens.

Cliff Duvernois:

But we have history too, right?

Cliff Duvernois:

And so we have a couple of historical fountains and that.

Cliff Duvernois:

So I always say if even if you're not as much of an animal person,

Cliff Duvernois:

we have something here for you.

Cliff Duvernois:

As far as like thinking about food, thinking about water, talk to

Cliff Duvernois:

us about what it is that you offer here.

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy Parker, Saginaw Children's Zoo: We have a big construction

Cliff Duvernois:

project going on right now.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so we are redoing the area that is our food area and our whole food plaza,

Cliff Duvernois:

and that should be done this fall.

Cliff Duvernois:

If you're coming this year, you will see that construction and project progress.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so we have now a little, it's a like a mini food truck kind of thing, and Nice.

Cliff Duvernois:

Um, and so we sell, hot dogs and chips and cheese and popcorn and drinks and snacks

Cliff Duvernois:

and ice cream and that type of thing.

Cliff Duvernois:

So we're not complicated on the food side.

Cliff Duvernois:

And we do allow, people also to bring food in.

Cliff Duvernois:

So if you wanna bring a picnic in and have a picnic here, you're

Cliff Duvernois:

more than welcome to do it.

Cliff Duvernois:

And.

Cliff Duvernois:

One of the things that cause, cuz you said before that you could probably get through

Cliff Duvernois:

the zoo in about two and a half hours.

Cliff Duvernois:

What would be I.

Cliff Duvernois:

like maybe a few exhibits, two or three or whatever that you would

Cliff Duvernois:

say, if I was coming in here, these would be like the three things

Cliff Duvernois:

I would recommend that you see.

Cliff Duvernois:

Obviously we wanna see everything.

Cliff Duvernois:

But here are three things that I really think you should see.

Cliff Duvernois:

So what would those be?

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy Parker, Saginaw Children's Zoo: Our wolves.

Cliff Duvernois:

We have Mexican gray, we have three Mexican gray wolves.

Cliff Duvernois:

And, they're in a beautiful exhibit.

Cliff Duvernois:

And, I would recommend, because people don't get to see wolves up close.

Cliff Duvernois:

We're a smaller zoo and so you really have a better view most times of our animals.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so I definitely wouldn't miss the, wolves in the forgotten forest.

Cliff Duvernois:

The other thing that we have that is unusual is that we

Cliff Duvernois:

have beehives at the zoo.

Cliff Duvernois:

And we have some in areas that are not visitor areas.

Cliff Duvernois:

But in the cabin that is right next to where the wolves are,

Cliff Duvernois:

we have an active beehive.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so you can actually see the bes be the bee, the easy for me to

Cliff Duvernois:

say the bees making honey and that, and actually working in the hive.

Cliff Duvernois:

And so that's something that you wouldn't really wouldn't see anywhere.

Cliff Duvernois:

so I'm curious, is this place just, is it

Cliff Duvernois:

giant windows in a building?

Cliff Duvernois:

Is it an all glass?

Cliff Duvernois:

It's

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy Parker, Saginaw Children's Zoo: a, it's a enclosure that.

Cliff Duvernois:

Where the bees can go outside.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sure.

Cliff Duvernois:

Okay.

Cliff Duvernois:

And then you can actually look in and see all the bees working and it, so

Cliff Duvernois:

it's plexiglass on the front of it.

Cliff Duvernois:

There you go.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yeah.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yes.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yeah.

Cliff Duvernois:

So you can see right into the hive.

Cliff Duvernois:

Excellent.

Cliff Duvernois:

Yeah.

Cliff Duvernois:

Which you don't get to do.

Cliff Duvernois:

So I always think, what can we do that, you, you don't get to do unique and

Cliff Duvernois:

fun.

Cliff Duvernois:

Sure.

Cliff Duvernois:

You mentioned before about the construction going on, specifically around

Cliff Duvernois:

what I'll just call it the food court.

Cliff Duvernois:

in that area there.

Cliff Duvernois:

is there other places in here where you're, expanding,

Cliff Duvernois:

gonna bring new exhibits in?

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

Yes.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

We have a building, we right now are working on, we have.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

Three projects that we're working on.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

The first one is underway.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

The next one there is a building where actually we're going to remodel that.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

As soon as this one is done, we'll start working on that.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

And that will have animals in inside the building where you

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

can actually go in and, and that.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

And so that will be a really nice, when the weather, maybe there's a little

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

rain or it's a little warm, you'll be able to get in there out of the heat

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

or out of the sprinkles, certainly.

Cliff Duvernois:

The one question, that I would like to close with is, and this

Cliff Duvernois:

has been a recurring theme throughout this interview, and I want to take a

Cliff Duvernois:

minute just to explore it, cuz what you're doing here is not inside of a vacuum.

Cliff Duvernois:

So when you're talking about, oh, we're adding this building, oh, we're

Cliff Duvernois:

renovating this, This tells me that there's people from outside Of the

Cliff Duvernois:

zoo that are coming in here to do.

Cliff Duvernois:

This particular work you've had, you talked before about these, the gentleman

Cliff Duvernois:

that carved Or the woodcarvers that carved The, the carousel, things like that.

Cliff Duvernois:

Talk to us about working with the community to really

Cliff Duvernois:

make the zoo a special place.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

We

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

couldn't do it without the community.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

I'll give you an example.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

Last Friday we had a water main break.

arker, Saginaw Children's Zoo:

Four o'clock on, oh,

Cliff Duvernois:

that must have been

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy Parker, Saginaw Children's Zoo: a nightmare.

Cliff Duvernois:

Four o'clock on Friday afternoon, right before the weekend.

Cliff Duvernois:

And we have, our zoo closes at five o'clock.

Cliff Duvernois:

So we left the leak until five.

Cliff Duvernois:

We turned the water off and we are calling in the community saying

Cliff Duvernois:

we need help and we need it now.

Cliff Duvernois:

We had a crew here seven o'clock Saturday morning.

Cliff Duvernois:

And by we open at 10 on Saturdays by 9 52.

Cliff Duvernois:

Our water was back on.

Cliff Duvernois:

Beautiful.

Cliff Duvernois:

And that's really people helping the community.

Cliff Duvernois:

They knew what it meant to us.

Cliff Duvernois:

And it meant a lot.

Cliff Duvernois:

It meant a lot to, the family that comes in.

Cliff Duvernois:

And what does a child wanna do?

Cliff Duvernois:

First thing, right?

Cliff Duvernois:

They wanna go into the restroom, we, we had to make sure that we

Cliff Duvernois:

were taking care of our visitors.

Cliff Duvernois:

So our community really helps us do that.

Cliff Duvernois:

And our community, the money that we're investing right now, we're

Cliff Duvernois:

putting in, unisex bathroom.

Cliff Duvernois:

We're putting in, new, nursing quiet room.

Cliff Duvernois:

we are doing all of that, and that's really from funds we

Cliff Duvernois:

raised from the community.

Cliff Duvernois:

And the other thing I would say about our community is, As much as

Cliff Duvernois:

they give us, we work to give back.

Cliff Duvernois:

So we work with a lot of other not-for-profit groups that,

Cliff Duvernois:

that, we'll do things for.

Cliff Duvernois:

And the money that we raise, cuz we raise 3 million to do this work.

Cliff Duvernois:

We really worked to invest back into our region, so we prioritize those funds.

Cliff Duvernois:

a few years back we did the accessible train project where we actually, created a

Cliff Duvernois:

new car and did some improvements in that so that our train could be, Accessible

Cliff Duvernois:

for those people who had extra needs.

Cliff Duvernois:

When we did that, we invested 85% of the money that we raised for that

Cliff Duvernois:

project right back into our community.

Cliff Duvernois:

We could have gone to Kansas City and ordered things and had

Cliff Duvernois:

shipped here, but we didn't.

Cliff Duvernois:

We really worked with the local blacksmith and the local irons.

Cliff Duvernois:

we did all of that, to really keep the money invested here.

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy, if somebody's listening to this interview and

Cliff Duvernois:

they're like, you know what?

Cliff Duvernois:

I wanna bring my family over there to the zoo, and they want to check out what

Cliff Duvernois:

you're doing online and take a look.

Cliff Duvernois:

Maybe look at the maps, the parking situation, whatever that might be, where's

Cliff Duvernois:

the best place for 'em to find you online?

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy Parker, Saginaw Children's Zoo: Saginaw zoo.com.

Cliff Duvernois:

Excellent.

Cliff Duvernois:

That is the place to go that.

Cliff Duvernois:

It tells you what animals we have that tells you our events schedule, tells you,

Cliff Duvernois:

gives you everything you need to know, is on our website and you can always call us.

Cliff Duvernois:

We still have someone answering the phone.

Cliff Duvernois:

a lot of more people do that.

Cliff Duvernois:

No, but we actually answer our phone.

Cliff Duvernois:

Nancy, thank you so much for taking time to speak with me today.

Cliff Duvernois:

I've learned a lot today.

Cliff Duvernois:

But yeah, thank you so much for your time.

Cliff Duvernois:

You're welcome.

Cliff Duvernois:

And for our audience, you can always roll on over to total michigan.com.

Cliff Duvernois:

Click on Nancy's interview and see all the links that she mentioned above.

Cliff Duvernois:

We'll see you next week with another inspiring story of a Michigander doing

Cliff Duvernois:

some pretty extraordinary things.

Follow