March 24, 2014
Teamsters Local 727 zookeeper members continue to do their part to protect grizzly bears and the animals’ shrinking North American habitat through an annual spaghetti dinner fundraiser at Brookfield Zoo.
For several years, the Brookfield Zoo Chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK) has worked with the Vital Ground Foundation, which protects and preserves key parcels of land in the north central United States that serve as migration corridors or buffer zones to protect grizzly bears and other wildlife from human encroachment and conflict.
In five years, keepers from the Brookfield Zoo Chapter of AAZK have raised more than $25,000 for Vital Ground through their annual spaghetti dinner fundraiser, which will be held Thursday, March 27.
“The volunteer conservation work our members do on top of their regular jobs is really remarkable,” said John Coli Jr., President of Local 727. “They’re helping make the world a better place, and we could not be more proud.”
Senior keeper John Matuszek, a 20-year Teamster and the 2014 Spaghetti Dinner chairperson, attended the Local 727 membership meeting on Feb. 23 to thank Local 727 for its annual contributions to the event. He also showed off the “Protectors of Vital Ground” bronze grizzly bear statue the organization gave to the Brookfield Zoo AAZK Chapter.
“The Teamsters have been one of our biggest supporters, and we could not have done it without you,” Matuszek said.
Dr. Stuart Strahl, President and CEO of the Chicago Zoological Society, also is chairman of the Board of Directors of the Vital Ground Foundation.
Grizzly bears are a “keystone species,” which means they hold together their food chain. In the lower 48 states, there are only about 1,500 grizzlies — down from a high of 50,000 to 100,000 — making them a threatened species.
“The zoo has been generous in letting us use their facilities and helping promote the event,” Matuszek said. “We’re all working together for a great cause.”
Brookfield Zoo AAZK Chapter’s 8th Annual Spaghetti Dinner
For more information on the Vital Ground Foundation, visit vitalground.org.