By Victoria Kidd
Five years of rallying the community has paid off for the Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, but the need for support is as constant as the flow of injured and ill wildlife coming through its doors. The center (commonly referred to as the BRWC) has spent the past five years raising funds for an ambitious capital campaign and educating the community about the valuable work they have been doing since they opened their doors in 2004. Since then, this well-respected 501(c)(3) non-profit organization has diligently pursued its mission to “ensure the preservation of native wildlife in areas where development has destroyed habitat and endangered wildlife.”
In 2014 alone, 1,883 individual animals crossed the threshold of the unassuming 200-year-old cottage that currently houses the center. The cottage is owned by the Burwell-van Lennep Foundation, an organization that was established to protect a large tract of unique, historic land in Clarke County. It grants the BRWC free use of the structure and 18 acres of land surrounding it. (More information about the Foundation can be found at bvlfoundation.blogspot.com.)
While the structure—complete with its iconic country blue front door—has served their purposes, its footprint is limited in size, and it has the small, sectioned-off layout of a house built in the time before electricity and other modern conveniences. In short, the 800-sqaure-foot space is clean and organized, but cramped and inadequate.
In that space (and the surrounding animal enclosures constructed purposefully for their work) the center saves the lives of everything from bats and baby squirrels to raccoons and bald eagles. The menagerie of animals may be as different as night and day, but they all are forever linked as patients of the center. The length of their stay and the treatment modalities applied vary, but most of them will eventually be released back into the wild.
Those who are injured seriously enough to impede their ability to live on their own in the wild may be given a job as an “animal ambassador.” Those ambassadors may take part in educational programs and outreach efforts that increase awareness of environmental issues, habitat destruction, and other problems facing area wildlife. The work is ambitious and complex, yet the team, being fully committed to the mission, makes the best of available resources and space while looking forward to what the future holds.
That future is being made possible through an active and ambitious capital campaign aimed at building a 4,000-sqaure-foot, state-of-the-art treatment facility on the same property. It has simultaneously needed to continue its fundraising efforts to simply fuel daily operations. According to its most recent newsletter, “The Center relies on private donations exclusively. It receives no funding from federal, state, or local governments.”
As such, tax-deductible donations are the lifeblood of its operations, including the onsite treatment and rehabilitation of animals and numerous educational programs throughout the region. In addition to education provided through partnerships with local schools and organizations, they also offer internships and mentoring opportunities to the next generation of animal conservation enthusiasts. Their role in rehabilitation and education is crucial, as there are only a handful of similar operations in the state.
The public’s support of that work comes in many forms, including cash donations. Other opportunities to support their efforts are announced regularly on their website (www.blueridgewildlife.org) or through their Facebook page. From participation in fundraisers championed by area businesses to regularly occurring “baby showers” (where supporters bring in items needed for the care of the center’s patients), everyone can find some way to get involved.
In September, those opportunities include the annual Creatures of the Night Soirée, an event in its 5th year. This elegant evening includes an auction that affords attendees a chance to take home a $35,500 bronze sculpture by world-renowned artist Lorenzo Ghiglieri, a pair of stunning earrings valued at $4,450, a Jamaican getaway worth $5,000, and other items. The silent and live auctions take place around the evening’s other features, including a cocktail reception, a buffet-style dinner, and musical entertainment.
Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Ferrari of White Post are hosting the event on the evening of September 26, and the BRWC stands to benefit from the funds raised throughout the night. Numerous individuals and families in the area are event patrons at levels ranging from $500 to $5,000. The thousands raised annually are used to ensure the future of our region’s wildlife, according to the official invite, and this limited-seating event is usually one of the regional highlights of September.
For more information on this event, contact Director of Development Franny Crawford at (540) 550-3057. Moreover, consider following the BRWC on Facebook. You’ll find that their regular introductions to the wildlife receiving care will certainly help to put a face—be it covered in fur, surrounded by feathers, or tucked away in a shell—to a few neighbors who could use our help.