I am PRWC. I started volunteering at Peace River Wildlife Center as a cage cleaner in 2004. One day a week I would come in and scrub, scrape, and slosh for a couple hours; shooing vultures out of my way, chasing crows off my head, and keeping a leery eye on the eagles as I picked up the remains of last night’s dinner. Over the years, my responsibilities have increased (along with the number of hours I put in), but from the moment I first stepped into a habitat with one of the residents, I knew I had found my new home.
And now, PRWC has found its new home too, having finally resolved our residential insolvency. A few years ago, when it was time to renew our lease with the City of Punta Gorda, we learned that a portion of the land we have been renting for more than 20 years is not actually city property. An old aerial survey had been proven inaccurate when a new survey was performed during a more recent land transfer transaction. Part of our facility was on private property.
After an exhaustive search all around Punta Gorda and around Charlotte County for an appropriate place to rebuild PRWC, Punta Gorda City Council and City Manager Howard Kunik came up with the perfect solution: Let PRWC stay in Ponce de Leon Park! After revamping Laishley and Gilchrist Parks, the City had its sights on Ponce de Leon Park for an upgrade. They offered an acre of that park to PRWC and are working diligently with architect Jim Herston (who is volunteering pro bono on this project) to design not only a new PRWC facility, but a beautiful new park for the entire community with upgraded amenities. Mr. Kunik, Mr. Herston, and all of the Punta Gorda City Council members are PRWC.
That is definitely good news. The bad news is that PRWC will need to raise over $1.5 million dollars to completely rebuild a new facility up to today’s standards. Some of our older habitats had been grandfathered in when new code regulations took effect as far as certain dimensions and features are concerned. Also, our case load has been increasing so rapidly that we have outgrown our current rehab caging. Patient care would be considerably improved with more space and additional habitats. On less than one-half acre, we are bursting at the seams in our little corner of paradise.
There is even better news, though. We have already raised over $1 million of the money needed to rebuild, and that was before we had the official start of the fundraising campaign. We have been squirreling away (pun intended) money for years in anticipation of this day. Many of our more staunch supporters have already given us substantial donations towards this end and we are extremely grateful to them. They are PRWC.
Saturday, May 6 we will celebrate our Capital Campaign Kick-off with a party in Ponce de Leon Park from 11-4. PRWC will be open our regular hours for tours and visitors. Of course, we will be open for injured animal drop-off as well. We will have activities for the entire family in the park—face painting, music, games. You can have your picture taken with Bella or Luna. Big John’s BBQ will be providing delicious food. We will have the outline of the proposed new Center chalked out and lots of VIPs will be there to answer questions and receive some well-deserved handshakes.
Come out and catch our infectious excitement over the plans for a new, bigger, better PRWC. We still have a few naming opportunities available for interested parties. But whether you donate $5 or $500,000, help us celebrate PRWC’s future—because you are PRWC.
by- Robin Jenkins, DVM