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How a Cleveland senior living community is helping the butterfly population bloom

Residents at Judson Park are doing their part to ensure butterflies don't become extinct.

CLEVELAND — Tucked away on a hillside in University Circle, a group of seniors are dedicated to the butterfly population from start to to finish. 

Just last month, monarch butterflies were classified as endangered. But the senior living community at Judson Park is committed to doing their part to help Mother Nature continue to blossom.

The project is led by Heather Alexander, who works in the community life department at Judson Park. Last year, she decided to bring her hobby to the residents. 

"We started actually last year as a temporary trial project," Heather explains. "I had raised some butterflies at home and thought the residents might enjoy seeing the process."

Spoiler Alert: She was right!

Penny Gleason, one of the residents who helps with the butterflies, says the project brings her a sense of nostalgia. It leaves her full of memories of her late mother. 

"When I moved here last year, there was a poster out saying, 'come see our butterflies.' And that took me back to when I was a child in New York City," Penny recalls. "The Chrysalis is hatched into butterflies and they were right near a window where they were not closed in. It was summertime and they would fly away. And that's how I learned about butterflies."

And for Heather, that’s what the program is all about.

"I enjoy learning with the residents. I enjoy watching them share the information and the process with their neighbors here, as well as with their family that come in to visit," she says.

In July, the International Union for Conservation of Nature classified the monarch butterfly as endangered, a result of decades of falling populations. 

So with Heather’s help, the residents at Judson Park are doing their part to ensure that butterflies don’t become extinct. 

"We're able to help some of the butterflies make it to adulthood so we can keep it going for other generations," Heather explains.

For nearly a month, the residents care for the soon-to-be butterflies at every stage...from the egg, to the caterpillar, and cocoon.

Some parts of the process take longer than others. 

"I really do like the butterflies as they're practicing their wings, drying them off, but sometimes that takes a long time," Penny says.

But it’s all worth it on release day. 

"If we can improve the monarch population, it's going to improve all of the other butterflies and pollinators, too," Heather adds. 

*Editor's Note: The video in the player above is from a previous report.

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