2017 Year in Review: Lacy Kegley, Assistant Vice President of Administration

It’s time to look back on 2017! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2017 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

A classmate first mentioned the Wildlife Center of Virginia during our final fall semester at James Madison University.  I had no idea that the brief conversation – which took place on a hallway floor as we were cramming for a midterm – would forever change my life.  Here we are, a little more than nine years later, and I’ve thought about that conversation often.  It sparked numerous turns in my life, both professionally and personally, and led me to finding my passion.  Without that conversation, I wouldn’t have looked up the Center, applied to be an extern, been hired on as Front-desk Coordinator, and found where I belonged in this crazy world.  Actually, the year of 2017 reminded me of my first year here -- it was an especially exciting year of changes and new roles.

Have you ever had a job where you felt antsy? Rewind to the summer of 2016: I worked for an organization I believed in and loved more than I thought possible.  However, I was starting to feel a little stale … but ambitious.  New ideas were grabbing my interest: How does the business of a non-profit work?  "Leadership" comes up so often in seminars online -- would I have an opportunity for leadership at the Center?  Would I ever have the chance to be more involved with the inner workings and the big decisions? 

New challenges awaited, and I was ready to go looking for them.  After encouragement from my close colleagues, I discussed my thoughts with Randy and Ed -- whom have both always asked me to be open and honest with them.  They asked me to explore my options here at the Center and beyond.  Figure out what I want to be when I grow up, and they’d support me, offer guidance, and whatever other insight and opportunity they could give.  Have you ever had that feeling when you realize you have super cool bosses?  In fact, I’ve never felt as at home as I did when I realized my mentors genuinely wanted what was best for me, and would help me achieve whatever goals I set for myself.

The Shenandoah Valley is an amazingly diverse place, and I quickly found graduate programs, local conferences, and other learning opportunities nearby.  I participated in several seminars, and I enrolled in a program through JMU for a Nonprofit Management Certificate, an opportunity offered to non-profit professionals in our community.  Non-profit and community leaders talked with us about management styles, storytelling, hiring, financial management, nonprofit laws, and so much more. I completed this program in April of this year, and, by then, thought I had figured out my next move.

In early June, after much internal debate, I told Ed and Randy I would like to pursue graduate school to get an MBA.  Obtaining an MBA would give me the tools and abilities to one day know how to manage the inner workings of a non-profit, which is what I wanted to do, but I wouldn’t be able to live this dream while continuing to work at the Center.  Hopefully, I would find another organization whose values aligned with mine, like the Wildlife Center, of which to be a part and to lead once I had this new degree. 

Ed and Randy did the last thing I thought possible: They made me a counter offer -- stay on at the Wildlife Center and get the experience I craved first hand.  In a new position, I would start working more closely with Randy and our board, participate in board meetings, manage projects, be involved with our financials, budgets, and budget projections. I’d also take on leadership opportunities by managing the Front Desk.

I’m honored Ed and Randy have put their complete faith in me, and maybe I’m a wee bit overwhelmed.  I have already faced new challenges, immersed myself in all aspects Wildlife Center, and I’ve learned so much.  That will continue in 2018, and I couldn’t be more excited. Perhaps most importantly, this experience has reminded me that I’m home.  Right here at the Wildlife Center, working with the most amazing people in the world, is where I’m meant to be.  I’m so lucky to have found this family.  And even more lucky to be a part of it.

There are moments – reading a story about a Bobcat rescued from the grille of a car, an email from a donor thanking us for caring for an underappreciated snapping turtle, hearing the front-desk staff admit a screaming baby fawn, tuning in to watch Hospital Cam – when I realize the enormous importance of the Wildlife Center and the work we do.  Lately, I’ve found myself transported back to that cold floor in a JMU hallway, hearing my classmate talk about a wildlife hospital in Waynesboro.  I’m forever grateful I listened.

--Lacy

Check out all of our year-in-review posts!