Holley couple officially donates land for Wildlife Refuge

Posted on April 24, 2018 by Staff reports

Bill and Carol “Stormy” Andersen of Holley have been passionate advocates for Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge for years, and on April 20 they officially turned over to the nonprofit a 2.3-acre parcel of land appraised at $210,000 which will serve as the future home of the refuge. 

“Stormy & I are challenging others to match our donation in order to raise the funds necessary to build the buildings,” said Bill Andersen, president of ECWR, told South Santa Rosa News on Tuesday.

The Andersens and the ECWR board have so far met with success, raising $249,312. But they are now in the process of raising the remaining $323,560 needed to fund construction. 

Toward that end, the refuge is seeking sponsorships for buildings and habitats, matching donations and skilled tradesmen, such as Heather and Daniel Scruggs of Navarre Drywall, who are contributing their services.

The community is also rallying to help raise money for the refuge’s future construction. So far the Gaetz and Keyes families have contributed $20,000 toward a large avian flight cage for raptors, the Hackney family has given $3,000 toward habits for animal ambassadors and Advanced Auto Parts of Navarre has sponsored a Degu habitat. 

Additionally, the Keller Williams Dream Team of Navarre has not only provided $1,200 toward sponsorship of rehabilitation habitats for gray and flying squirrels and a turtle pond with a tortoise, but also the real estate office, which coincidentally celebrated its fifth anniversary April 20, is planning to make the site of the future refuge their 2018 RED (Renew, Energize and Donate) Day Project — each year on the second Thursday in May, tens of thousands of associates from across the United States and Canada participate in a wide range of projects, devoting their time to renewing and energizing aspects of the neighborhoods in which they serve. 

“We always try to pick out a worthy charity to assist for RED Day when we give back to the community. We’re donating our entire day on May 10 to help build habitats so that we can support the refuge in their work taking care of animals,” said Jersey Jerry Foster of the Keller Williams Dream Team.

The local tourist development council on April 5 recommended the county commissioners to allocate $6,000 tourist tax revenue toward the effort, which Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Director Julie Morgan said will one day help lure tourists to the area.

“I’m a huge supporter of this project,” said District 4 Commissioner Rob Williamson. Commissioners on Monday voted without objection to move forward the request to their April 23 meeting.

Supporting documentation for the county’s request states the new Rehabilitation & Medical Center will allow the organization to continue providing wildlife rescue and rehabilitation at a greater capacity in a quiet, safe, and natural location which will provide will provide a quiet, monitored,  environment for our recovering wildlife as they transition to their return to the wild. The new Education & Outreach Center will offer a broader range of educational offerings including lecture series by staff members, noted area biologists and animal professionals, interactive displays, up-close encounters with our Animal Ambassadors native to Northwest Florida, staff and docent-led classroom and refuge activities, to school on-site field trips.

The mission of Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge (ECWR) is education, conservation and rehabilitation for the welfare of Florida’s natural fauna. In 2017, the refuge had 1,527 patient intakes consisting of 148 total species (27 mammal, 104 bird, 16 reptile and 1 amphibian), all of which required immediate care. Currently the refuge cares for 18 animal ambassadors that cannot return to the wild. 

ECWR is a not-for-profit organization established in 1994 which  provides wildlife rescue services and environmental outreach to the five counties in Northwest Florida with a caring staff on duty 24-hours a day, seven days a week, to assist local and state agencies in managing wildlife. 

If you can help support the construction effort, contact Andersen at (850) 723-7177 or wildbillandersen@yahoo.com.