Longtime members Laurie Stoneman and her husband George began their deep relationship with the Zoo when Laurie joined the docent class in 1991, after her last child went off to college. Laurie had spent years volunteering with organizations that her family had long been involved with, but wanted something new. “Something that was all mine,” Laurie recollects. “I'm not even sure how I came up with the Zoo, but it turned out the wife of one of George's fellow ear, nose, and throat doctors served on the provisional class committee.”
After Laurie graduated from the docent class, she educated the public for several years as a touring docent, but, ultimately, decided that she preferred other areas of service. She participated in, and eventually co-chaired, the Tamarin Watch program, a space for the small South American monkeys that allowed them to range freely and required constant monitoring. When the free-range project concluded, a few of the program participants—including Laurie and George—helped fund a new tamarin enclosure, a slope-side habitat in the Zoo’s South America section.
In 1996, the Stonemans joined the Wild Beast Society (later Safari Society) and so enjoyed the exclusive Zoo Director’s Series and Sunset Safari events that George became a devotee. Having participated in L.A. Zoo Photo Day a few times, he took photography courses to develop his skills further. Today, George is a volunteer Zoo photographer.
The Stonemans recently made a gift to help provide cameras for the Zoo’s California condor staff, in honor of their 50th wedding anniversary. “Since we are not getting any younger, we are now paying more attention to estate planning and an uncertain future,” Laurie explains. “We decided that it was a good time to focus on our donation/impact on some of our philanthropies. It's nice to donate annually, in our case to Safari Society, and receive some perks and enjoyment from it. But the real gratification comes with a gift that makes a notable difference. We plan to continue our support of the condor cameras. Our family loves birds. We are excited to be able to do a tiny part in the conservation of this iconic animal.”
Around the Zoo, George loves photographing the flamingos and apes while Laurie will “stop and watch anything that is moving.” The pair is looking forward to seeing some of the areas of the Zoo’s ambitious Vision Plan come to fruition. In the meantime, they continue to enjoy the lush gardens and diverse animal species, hoping that the Zoo's message of conservation is making an impact on the citizens of Los Angeles, just as it has on them.