MARION -- Pam Sundeen has made it her business to care for wildlife, care that comes with a price tag of nearly $5,000 a month.
Sundeen owns and operates Second Nature Wildlife Rehabilitation near Thompsonville. The facility, which has been in operation since 2008, works to rescue injured wildlife and return it into the ecosystem.
Sundeen relies on volunteers and donations to complete her work.
"One bucket of baby formula is $280," she said. During baby season, Sundeen can go through four or five of those each month. "My water bill alone is about $250," she said.
Several volunteers came together Monday evening at McAlister's Deli in Marion to help raise funds.
Neil Venegas of Carterville was one of those.
"I like to help the animals," said the Carterville resident, who hopes to become a chef one day.
McKenzie Newsome, a junior at Galatia High School, is a regular volunteer at the rehab who spent time bussing tables.
"I like the raccoons," she said with a shy smile.
Violet Pearce of Benton is a veteran volunteer.
"My mom owns a rehab in Murphysboro and I've been around animals all my life," she said. "Pam needed help and I needed to be around the animals."
The group took orders, waited and bussed tables, and refilled drinks. McAlister's donated 10 percent of all sales during a three-hour period.
"We only made about $175," said Sundeen.
However, Sen. Dale Fowler upped that total on Tuesday morning, pledging a $500 donation to Sundeen.
"I admire anyone who steps up with time and passion to undertake the efforts to ensure and preserve our natural resources," said Fowler. "These are critical issues. Wildlife is important, especially here in southern Illinois. It's important to support agencies like this."
Sundeen currently has a full house, including 30 possums, 28 raccoons, a fox, two squirrels, three pot belly pigs, two horses, two goats, a donkey, "and a partridge in a pear tree," she said with a grin.
Some of these animals, like Luna, the fox, will be permanent residents, because their injuries prevent them form being returned to their habitat.
"Her story is tragic," said Sundeen.
"Luna was bred and sold as a domestic pet," said Sundeen. "After going through four homes in as many months, Luna landed in Sundeen's care when her family's Christmas tree caught fire and their house burned.
Luna bolted, still wearing a harness, during the fire. She was found a month later, harness intact, but had been shot in the leg.
Sundeen said Luna has no chance of ever surviving in the wild. Although her leg was saved, she has a permanent limp.
"It's sad," she said. "People look at an animal and think they want it for a pet but they have no idea how to actually deal with it."
Fowler said he is pleased to be able to support Sundeen's work.
"It's hard to raise funds," he said, noting that many worthwhile programs are also seeking operating costs. "I encourage others to reach out and support the amazing work being done by people like Pam."
Marc Ayers, the Illinois State Director for the Humane Society, also noted the importance of public support for programs like Sundeen's.
"Wildlife rehabs such as Second Nature Wildlife Rehab play a vital role in caring for orphaned, sick, or injured animals with the ultimate goal of releasing them back into the wild," he said. "We appreciate their efforts and applaud our state's elected officials in supporting their work."
Second Nature can be found on Facebook or by calling (618) 627-2000.