Eyes on the Beginning
In 1991, Virginia Frati was on her way home from her job as a secretary with the Dept. of Public Works in Yaphank when she saw a woodchuck hit by a car in front of her. The animal was not killed and was writhing in pain by the side of the road. She pulled over and approached the injured animal. It did not appear to be mortally wounded and she thought it could be helped.
Ginnie called a local veterinarian and was told she should contact a wildlife rehabilitator. With a hopeful heart she dialed the number she was given. An answering machine informed her of the numbers of other rehabilitators in the area. After leaving a frantic call for help, Virginia dialed each number, only to receive a similar message. She left a detailed call for help on each tape. After ten dollars of quarters were expended, she realized that no help for the woodchuck was coming. She sat next to the suffering animal until it finally died.
Suddenly Virginia could clearly see the hardships animals endure in the wild. That’s when she vowed to do something to alleviate the suffering of nature’s wild creatures.
It took Virginia Frati 10 years to keep that vow!
The Long, Slow Road
When rehabilitators finally returned her call, Ginnie realized that there was no full-time wildlife facility on Eastern Long Island. The closest, “Volunteers for Wildlife” was in Locus Valley. The few local rehabilitators had to work full time jobs. Some area veterinarians would treat wildlife, but only after their dog or cat rounds were completed.
There had to be another way! Ginnie began to research and accumulate every bit of available information on wildlife rehabilitation. She attended seminars in various states across the country. She offered to volunteer. Slowly she was gaining the necessary knowledge to try on her own. In 1995, Ginnie passed the rehabilitator's test given by the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation. Because she was working in Yaphank, Ginnie petitioned Dr. Tepper of Shirley Animal Hospital as her co-operating veterinarian.
Dr. Tepper agreed and so began the odyssey of transporting cages with sick and injured animals from Noyak to Yaphank to Shirley. Crates has to be carried through parking lots, though hallways, down stairways to the archive room of the Public Works Building where she tended to her patients during her lunch and coffee breaks. Evenings the entire process had to be reversed. Evenings and weekends, Ginnie’s house was transformed into a clinic for the wild patients.
It was not unusual to find a goose or loon swimming in the bathtub or swans sailing in her swimming pool. Baby squirrels peered out of incubators in the hallways. Birds with splinted wings were kept in boxes full of air holes. Turtles resided in terrariums in the warmest spot in the house. All available space was taken. This was not the answer!
Considering the number of animals injured in our area, a home-based rehabilitation center was only a stop-gap measure! Depositing the injured animal with a local vet is also not a viable answer, because the wild creature is subjected to the sounds and smells of domestic animals. A place had to be created where injured animals would receive immediate attention under supervised conditions!
As local zoning laws do not include construction of buildings for the purpose of housing wildlife, the only viable alternative appeared to be acquisition of public land through a lease agreement. This task could only be accomplished by a non-profit corporation with an active Board of Directors.
In May of 1997, the Wildlife Rescue Center of the Hamptons, Inc. was born!
So committed was Virginia Frati to this project that she took an enormous step! She resigned from her job! The very next month, the first directors meeting was held. First order of business became the active pursuit of a full-time rehabilitation center; open to the general public. Since then, many leads became dead ends until the County of Suffolk offered unused parkland with a dilapidated building in the Hampton Bays in exchange for improvements on property. In March 1999 a temporary agreement was signed.
This was only the beginning. The year dragged on with meetings—the Hampton Bays Civic Association, Suffolk County Council on Environmental Quality, Pine Barrens Committee- and many others. A complete set of working drawings had to be presented to each group. Of course, the long hours of caring for the animals continued. A lot of promised support fell by the wayside. Fast and furious talk led to few actions. Finally, there remained only Virginia and a few die-hard supporters looking at the total disaster of a barely standing building that had been offered by the Department of Parks. It seemed an insurmountable task!
Miracles Do Happen
We are truly a “grass roots” organization. We are not a monument to the efforts of one individual. A lot of volunteers jumped on the bandwagon along the way. An honorary committee was formed, hosting a cocktail party for WRC in Manhattan to kick off our building fund. From 1999 to 2000, serious efforts were made to raise funds needed to open a professional wildlife rehabilitation center.
Planning steps were taken—from the careful drawing of plans and blueprints, applying for permits, to the recruitment of volunteers to help build the facility. All contributions received went straight into building our dream—the first wildlife hospital and trauma center on Eastern Long Island!
Now that there was some seed money, the volunteers rolled up their sleeves and started to strip the old building to the bone. Weekends were spent stripping and tearing with crow bars and cat’s-paws.
Unbelievably, the group started to grow! Helpers seemed to appear out of thin air. More and more people were showing up on Saturday morning. A tradesmen’s group from Hampton Bays asked if they could join. And older group began to volunteer once a week. The project took on a life of its own.
June of 2000, the Wildlife Rescue Center opened its doors to the public!
A fully operational wildlife hospital with:
· Examination room
· Dietary preparation room
· Exterior structures (housing for recuperation patients)
· Aviary complexes
· Mammal complexes
· Large water bird enclosures with flushing swimming pools
· Reptile complex
· Parking lot
You Can Be Part of the Team
The WRC needs volunteer and supporters! We are not constantly upgrading our facilities to serve the growing number of animals needing our assistance. Our training programs teach how to become a hospital with fundraising, newsletter publishing, educational programs, website design and public relations campaigns.**
If you cannot give your time, please consider making a donation of cash, securities, real estate, personal property, such as automobiles or collectable items, which we can sell at our annual auction. Memorials to loved ones, or to a beloved pet, can also be made by dedicating a cage or building. All efforts are greatly appreciated!
We are a not-for-profit 501 (3) corporation. Contributions are tax deductible as allowed by law. The Wildlife Rescue Center is supported by memberships and donations from the private sector. All services are provided to the local community at no cost. A financial report is available upon request or is on file with New York State Department of State, Charities Registration, Albany, NY 12231.
In response to a generous endowment presented to the Wildlife Rescue Center by Leslie Alexander in early 2011, the Wildlife Rescue Center became to Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center in honor of Mr. Alexander’s mother.