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May 17, 2017 9:53 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Mix-Up Leads To Collaborative Fundraising Effort Between Wildlife Organizations

Dean Andrews in her studio.
May 22, 2017 8:51 AM

It all started with a turtle trying to cross a busy road.Jane Hastay spotted it in harm’s way while she was driving and pulled over to carry it safely across the street. When she picked the turtle up, she noticed a large lump on its head. So she put it in her car instead and headed to the nearest veterinarian, who directed her to the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in Hampton Bays.

The staff at the center lanced the abscess and treated the turtle with antibiotics, and, several days later, Ms. Hastay found herself back at the original location, gently placing the turtle back at its intended destination.

When Ms. Hastay told this story to her friend, Dean Andrews, it made a strong impression on her.

“We were both crying, saying it was so beautiful, and said, wouldn’t it be nice to do a fundraiser for them?” Ms. Andrews recounted earlier this week.

An East Hampton artist, Ms. Andrews envisioned an event where she could display and sell her work, while Ms. Hastay’s band, the Chickpeas, provided musical entertainment. Ultimately, Ms. Hastay’s band was unable to commit to the fundraiser. But Ms. Andrews, who describes herself as a nature lover, went ahead with plans to use her art to support the wildlife center—which her friend, Ms. Hastay, had told her was located in Quogue.

That bit of misinformation set off what Ms. Andrews now refers to as a “divine mix-up”: He had successfully set plans in motion for a fundraiser, only to realize she had done so for the wrong organization.

When Ms. Andrews realized that the woman she’d been in touch with, Marisa Nelson, was with the Quogue Wildlife Refuge and not the Wildlife Rescue Center, she thought she had a problem on her hands.

Instead, it turned out to be a new idea.

“I thought, how am I going to do this?” Ms. Andrews said. “I didn’t want to back out of one—how awkward would that be? But I thought I’d see if they have any affiliation.”

Ms. Andrews said she can’t remember if it was her idea specifically, but ultimately she, Ms. Nelson and Shelley Berkoski of the Wildlife Rescue Center agreed to make it a joint fundraising effort for both organizations.

The result will be on display this Saturday, at an event dubbed “Wild Things,” set for 6 p.m. at 230 Elm in Southampton. An exhibit of paintings by Ms. Andrews will be on display, and a $55 ticket includes a complimentary drink and passed hors d’oeuvres. There will be both a Chinese and silent auction, and proceeds from ticket sales, the auction, and sales of the paintings will be split between the two organizations.

Both Ms. Berkoski and Ms. Norman said they were not surprised that the mix-up occurred. Ms. Berkoski recalled how several of her family members thought she worked at the refuge, not the rescue center, when she first got the job there. Ms. Norman said people often call the refuge asking them to take in a sick or injured animal, at which point she refers them to the rescue center. Even their mail is mixed up from time to time.

“A lot of people just call our place ‘the wildlife,’ so it’s easy to see how it can happen,” Ms. Norman said.

While they are two separate organizations, both the rescue center and the refuge often work together, and complement each other. One way of understanding the difference between the two is to think of the rescue center as the “before,” and the refuge as the “after.”

The rescue center—located on Montauk Highway in Hampton Bays, just east of the Wild By Nature grocery store, appropriately—is permitted by the government for both medical rehabilitation of animals and education of the general public about wild animals, which allows the center to keep wildlife that can’t be released back into its natural habitat.

While a few of the animals that find their way to the rescue center end up living there permanently, the center tries to “release” them in one way or another—ideally, back to the wild, but if an injury or imprinting (becoming too accustomed to humans) eliminates that option, they try to find them a home at a place like the Quogue Wildlife Refuge, located on Old Country Road in Quogue. In certain circumstances, when neither option is feasible, the animal is euthanized, which rescue center executive director Ginni Fratti says she and her colleagues refer to as its own kind of “release.”

Unlike the rescue center, the refuge is only permitted to keep wild animals for educational purposes, hosting school groups and other programs for both adults and families, and is not licensed to provide rehabilitation. The 300-acre nature preserve is open to the public, with seven miles of nature trails in addition to the display of non-releasable wild animals—fox, wild turkeys, a bald eagle, hawks, and others—that call the refuge home. Contact with humans is purposely kept to a minimum at the rescue center, by contrast, because the primary goal is always to return the animal back to nature, and they do not want the animals to become dependent on humans for survival, if they can avoid it.

One thing the two organizations do share is an ever-present need for money. The government is in charge of licensing wildlife centers but does not provide any funding. And so events like Saturday’s benefit, contributions from loyal donors, and various grants are what allow both organizations to stay afloat.

For her part, Ms. Andrews is excited to show off her new work, “13 Ways Of Looking At A Red-Winged Blackbird,” a series of paintings of the birds inspired in part by the modernist poet Wallace Stevens, who wrote “13 Ways Of Looking At A Blackbird.” Ms. Stevens said the opportunity to raise money for both organizations gave her motivation to finish the work. And Ms. Berkoski said she’s happy that Ms. Andrews’s initial confusion led to the fundraising collaboration.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity to do something together,” she said. “We just had another fundraiser, a plant sale on our lawn, and we had such positive feedback from our regular supporters about how excited they are that we’re doing something together. I think it’s a happy accident. It’s just meant to be.”

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