Keys to balancing work and home life

The Atlanta Steeplechase soars because of behind-the-scenes person


ATLANTA — As a wife, a mother of three and the executive director of the Atlanta Steeplechase, Jean Bird has found a way to make motherhood and career work.

While on a vacation in college, Bird received some advice she would apply over a decade later.

She and her mother were at a beach and heard about a small conference being held at a local hotel. The conference’s guest speaker was a successful business woman who sold expensive evening purses to celebrities and anyone else who could afford one of her purses priced at $1,000 and up.

Bird and her mother went to the hotel and found the woman to be extremely wise. Bird decided to introduce herself and then asked the woman how she was able to manage all her traveling and keeping up with her family.

The woman’s response became the framework for Bird’s future lifestyle.

“At a certain time of the day, you just have to cut off work and make it all about family,” Bird says. “You’ve got voicemail — turn off your phone and give your attention to your kids or else it’s going to drive you crazy because you’ll never be able to give 100 percent one way or the other.”

Along with keeping healthy boundaries between work and home life, Bird also credits her friends for always helping her where she needs it.

From picking up the kids from school to coming into the office to stuff envelopes with tickets and maps for the approaching Atlanta Steeplechase, Bird’s friends are there to help her where they can.

“I am amazed at how Jean manages her career and all the family activities she always has on her calendar.,” says Ellen Gibson, Bird’s marketing director and friend. “She comes to work every morning with a funny story about something that happened the night before with one of her kids and always comes in ready to start a meeting or go see a sponsor.”

Bird does not claim to be perfect, but striving to stay disciplined at protecting her boundaries and having an amazing support system has created a less stressful life at home and at the office.

Are You Looking for Your New Best Friend?


Background on Shelter

ACWORTH, Ga. — Melissa King and Geoff Resnik are the founders and owners of Your New Best Friend Pet Rescue.

The rescue, located in Acworth, Georgia, opened in September 2015. King and Resnik were inspired to open a shelter after seeing a homeless dog’s photo on Facebook and a trip to Gulf World Marine Park.

It appears that registering and obtaining a license to open a shelter with the Department of Agriculture might be the easiest part of the process.

King and Resnick spend approximately $4,000 per month out of their own pocket to care for the dogs at the shelter. Some of that cost relates to food, water, rental of the shelter and medical care for the dogs.

Many of the dogs at the shelter require medication for diseases like worms, phenomena and other illnesses. Some dogs require more extensive medical treatment such as surgery or even amputation of limbs due to injuries they receive while with neglectful owners or after being abandoned.

Challenges of Running a Shelter

Money is not the only challenge King and Resnik face; however, time is another huge challenge.

“I spend 16 plus hours a day taking care of the dogs. It is hard to find volunteers who are consistent,” King said.


Cricket and Jillian (Photo by Marie Lambacher)

The shelter is currently home to 18 dogs. However, Your New Best Friend Pet Rescue has partnered with another rescue, The Animal Rescue League of North Georgia, to expand its efforts.

The Animal Rescue League of North Georgia has access to farm land where they are able to house more rescue dogs. Combined, both organizations house and care for approximately 60 dogs until they are adopted out.

According to the Georgia Homeless Pets’ website, “In the Atlanta area alone, there are more than 100,000 animals destroyed each year for lack of a home.”

The homeless pet problem in Georgia is caused by a multitude of factors. One is the lack of understanding by prospective pet owners regarding the amount of time and effort it requires to own a dog.

Homeless Pet Problem in Georgia

“It is a 15-year commitment.” King said.

Also, it is costly to own a dog. According to a report by Money Under 30, “The total first-year cost of owning a dog is $1,270.”

This number can be increased if your dog has any medical issues, needs expensive grooming, requires special food or so on.

Another contributor to Georgia’s homeless dog population is that dogs have not been spayed or neutered.  Although there may be some exceptions, the general reason for this is that owners do not want to incur the cost or inconvenience to spay or neuter their dog.

This not only causes overpopulation, but it can also have life-threatening consequences for the dog. Neglecting to spay or neuter can eventually lead to ovarian and testicular cancer in the dog in addition to putting litters at risk of similar health issues.

Helping Local Shelters

Many people want to help their local shelters but aren’t sure how. Monetary donations are only one method of helping a shelter.

Another way to help is to donate your time. Many shelters need help carrying out simple daily tasks such as feeding the dogs, cleaning out their crates, letting the dogs outside or walking and playing with them. Another task is that of holding and handling puppies.

Doing this helps them get accustomed to humans and aids in socializing them, making interaction with their future, permanent family that much easier. It will also help them to be healthier and happier dogs.

Pat Fitzgerald has been a volunteering since 2008 at multiple shelters, such as Atlanta Humane Society, Atlanta Lab Rescue and Atlanta Pet Rescue and Adoption.

“The most rewarding part of volunteering at a pet shelter is the unconditional love they show you just for giving them a little attention, watching personalities evolve, helping them become more adoptable pets and seeing them get forever homes,” Fitzgerald said.

The Atlanta Steeplechase soars because of behind-the-scenes person


ATLANTA — On the day of the big event, it is difficult to track down Jean Bird.

The mobile radio is calling her name every few minutes informing her that one of the sponsor’s tent’s generators is missing or a volunteer is asking her where the six tables on a golf cart are supposed to go.

Bird runs from one point of the race track to another multiple times throughout the event in order to serve everyone’s needs.

From managing the exact time that the sky divers jump from planes flying over the race track, to taking a moment to hug her daughter between selling raffle tickets, Jean Bird is an impressive career woman who makes the Atlanta Steeplechase run like a well-oiled machine every year.

Jean Bird has been the executive director of the Atlanta Steeplechase for the past 17 years. Over the years, Bird has discovered the significance of networking and has used that to successfully execute the Atlanta Steeplechase every April.

While juggling all of the demands that go along with planning an annual event that caters to more than 19,000 guests, Bird is a proud wife and mother of three and has found a way to make it all work.

Jean Bird (Photo by Katie Clark)

“It’s a lot of work putting this event on every year and making sure it goes as well as possible,” Bird says. “But I love it, and that next Monday morning after the event, I’m back in the office trying to see what all I can fix to make it even better for next year.”

What is the Atlanta Steeplechase?

The Atlanta Steeplechase is Georgia’s biggest horse-racing event taking place on the second Saturday of every April. The race benefits Bert’s Big Adventure, an organization that takes chronically and/or terminally ill children and their families to Walt Disney World every year.

Over the last 50 years, the Atlanta Steeplechase has since grown into an all-day, family event.

Entertainment and activities at the event include Budweiser Clydesdales prancing along the track, bagpipers, a parade of hounds, the annual ladies’ hat contest, picnicking, pony rides, zip lines and so much more.

All of this is coordinated by Bird.

Jean Bird’s Early Years      

Bird was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. From her youth, she had a passion for sports and played sports year round through high school. Even today, Bird plays tennis and attends her three children’s various sporting events.

While attending the University of North Carolina, Bird was an active member and held leadership positions in her sorority, Chi Omega. During that time, Bird discovered she had a knack for event planning and networking.

One year after graduating, Bird was hired as an event planner for sports leagues. This dream job would be the “practice field” where she perfected skills she would use at the Atlanta Steeplechase.

The Beginning of Her Reign as Executive Director

When Bird was hired at Atlanta Steeplechase, she was overjoyed to be in a sports-related career again.

As the only employee at the time, she was in charge of all the logistics and operations for the event, maintaining the relationships with members of the board, making all sponsorship sales and developing a marketing plan.

Today, Bird’s staff has has doubled, consisting of Marketing and Sales Director Ellen Gibson and Operations Manager Lynn Dunn. Bird now oversees a committee of 10 chairmen, who have separate committees that accomplish specific aspects of the event and mainly focus on managing the event as a whole.

“My own position of being the operations manager has me stressed out just by itself, but Jean [Bird] still does the majority of the heavy lifting around here,” Lynn Dunn says. “There are a million different things going on, and she knows how to handle all of them.”

The Best Part

Bird has accomplished professional and personal achievements while serving as the executive director over the past 17 years. However, Bird considers her favorite aspect of the Atlanta Steeplechase to be the people.

She values those relationships and friendships that have developed through networking and years of working closely with people who care about the Atlanta Steeplechase and its mission.

“When you see the Bert’s Big Adventure kids who are so happy and having a great time and knowing that you’ve helped to give them and their families a little bit of happiness and a great day, that’s rewarding,” Bird says.

Bird feels lucky to be working in a job that encompasses her love of sports and the gathering of people.

This year’s race day went smoothly and effortlessly, and that’s the sign of a master machinist.