One of my favorite things about The Smile Project is the opportunity to connect with other people in the nonprofit and social good space. As a grantee of The Pollination Project, I can connect with others who care about making their world better.
That’s how I connected to Melanie Jacobs. She lives in Minnesota and is the Founder and Operator of Rooster Redemption. Keep reading to learn more about her nonprofit.
Liz: Let’s start in traditional Smile Project fashion. Give me a ‘Happiness is.’
Melanie: Happiness is hugging a rooster who was bred to fight and kill. He looks up at me, blinking and tilting his head, and I can only imagine him thinking "I like living here, it is better than where I used to live." Or hugging one who was set for slaughter but escaped or cuddling a rooster who was set to be killed for a religious ritual at 6 weeks old but was rescued by activists. These birds were treated with complete disregard and disrespect, therefore happiness in my world is to give them love and tell them they matter and are someone, not something.
Liz: Tell me about your project.
Melanie: Rooster Redemption, established in 2016, is a non-profit sanctuary exclusively for male chickens. We currently care for 23 roosters rescued from abandonment, school hatching projects, slaughter, cockfighting, and religious rituals.
Liz: What is the driving force behind what you do?
Melanie: What drives me is the fact that these birds are the most discarded, abandoned, exploited, and disregarded land animal on the planet. From their horrific fate at just one day old at factory farms, they are killed simply because they were born male and are not useful to the industry because they don't lay eggs. Additionally, many counties/towns/cities prohibit them, therefore finding homes for them is near impossible. There is a huge misconception that roosters are "mean" or "aggressive." The truth is, they are individuals with unique personalities and have a protective nature. When their boundaries are not respected, they will let you know. When you give them love and safety, they take notice and love you back. In a sense they are the "pit bulls" of the bird world.
Liz: What does service mean to you?
Melanie: Service means helping others, plain and simple. We extend this to all species, human and non-human. My life is to give to others. Aside from our sanctuary, I work full time as an addiction counselor and help alcoholics and addicts begin recovery. I find a parallel with alcoholics/addicts and roosters. It seems they are often discarded, but really, they need some love and nurturing to create hope for a better life.
Liz: How can people get involved?
Melanie: Visit our website and go to the page "How Can You Help?" for a variety of ways to contribute. Like and share our Facebook page Rooster Redemption, and our Instagram page @roosterredemption. Our website and Facebook pages have donate buttons and all donations are tax-deductible.
Liz: Anything else you’d like to add?
Melanie: We are in an upcoming feature length documentary called Kindred Creatures set to be released in 2019. It explores the personalities and ways of life of animals used in animal agriculture. For more information and to view the trailer, visit
Liz: Do you have a favorite quote to leave us with?
"Let go or be dragged."