By Zach Sturniolo
BETHLEHEM TWP. – Rabbits, hawks, snakes, squirrels. All are easily found in Bethlehem Township.
Sometimes, that means that one or another creature finds its way onto Northampton Community College’s Main Campus.
But if Joe Homay is on duty, their safety on school property is in good hands.
Homay, an electrician at NCC for 28 years, has rescued countless critters on campus over the decades.
Why? To him, every life – no matter the size – is worth preserving. Whether the animal be as small as a spider or as large as a hawk, Homay goes out of his way to guide it to safety.
“I’ve always been an animal lover,” Homay said. “My heart’s always with the animals because they’re just not getting a fair shake today.”
His affection for them began in his backyard at home, where within the last year he has fed two skunks, a family of groundhogs, nine squirrels, birds and two opossums. He also homes seven rescued dogs, adding to the furry foray around his house.
Homay’s venture into rescuing animals on campus dates back roughly 20 years, he estimated. If any maintenance worker happened to mow through a rabbit’s nest while caring for the campus lawn, Homay would receive the call to assist.
Homay proceeded to obtain and guide the rabbit to a fenced-in location of the electrical shop, where two previously-rescued rabbits were already present.
“I was hoping that they would take care of him, and they did,” Homay said.
As time passed, Homay continued feeding them until they grew old enough to leave the shop and explore again. But that wasn’t before they reproduced. Then, those offspring reproduced. Now, he hosts nine, two of which joined the party near the beginning of the semester and three of whom are named – Amy, Alice and Victor.
“I feed them every single day, and they come to me,” Homay said. “I make a certain noise with my mouth and they know that it’s me. Somehow, they know.”
His mornings consist of feeding the bunnies, the birds and two squirrels that have become his regulars.
Homay lamented that humans continue to destroy animals’ habitats, leaving the critter effectively homeless. He has taken on the responsibility of assuring each animal has either the ability to live happily or a home where he knows it is safe.
“They need to live,” Homay said. “Why should their life be any different? They have to live. They’re there for a purpose.”
If any animal is in trouble on campus, Homay said students and passersby typically contact campus security, which then contacts him immediately.
Once Homay arrives on the scene, he cares for the being using any of his available personal funds to tend to its wellbeing. If he can’t do it himself, Homay will take injured creatures to places Wright Veterinary Medical Center in Bethlehem and Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation and Education Center in Stroudsburg.
Whenever he drops off an animal, he is sure to leave a donation to help the animal and asks to be called for any update on the animal’s condition.
His care and love for the life around him is critical to Homay, as is the trust of his colleagues on campus as well as his friends at the veterinary clinic.
“That’s the reputation that I was trying to build with them – that if they call me to help, I’m going to be there and I’m going to help them,” Homay said. “And I’m not just going to walk away and leave it to die or suffer. I can’t do that, no matter what.
“If it costs me money, it costs me money. I will never abandon an animal that I was called (in) to help.”