2020 Year in Review: Lauren Swinson, Front-desk Coordinator

It’s time to look back on 2020! Check our blog between Christmas and New Year’s for a variety of stories and memories of 2020 from the staff and volunteers of the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

As a newer member of the WCV team, I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to see how the Center works to help animals from both the perspective of a rescuer and an employee.

About a week before my first official day as a front-desk coordinator, my family and I saw a box turtle attempting to cross the road. I quickly turned my car around at the closest place to do so safely, but unfortunately, we saw the turtle get hit by another vehicle as we were coming back around.

The turtle spun off the road onto the shoulder. After containing the turtle, I immediately called the Center. They asked me to send in photos so the vets could assess the damage to the turtle. From the photo alone, they were able to determine that, while the damage from the car had been minor, there were shell fractures and exposed bone that needed to be treated. They asked me to bring the turtle in.

We kept the radio off and the kids quiet and brought the turtle to Waynesboro. In a contact-free COVID safe drop-off, we transferred the turtle to Genesis (my soon-to-be coworker!) After that, it was in the hands of the incredible vet team. Ordinarily, that would be where the part of the rescuer stops. Thankfully, I was in the position to see what happens next.

On my first day at WCV, I was given a brief tour, which included the reptile room where the turtle we had brought was receiving care. As the weeks went by, I would periodically check the notes in our computer system for the progress of the box turtle. During this time, I was able to get to know all the amazing staff and students who work here.

Seeing their expertise, compassion, and dedication come together for the good of each animal that comes through our doors has been an incredible experience and something that I am so grateful to be a part of. Watching the process of what happens when an animal is admitted and given care, and seeing it done every day with unfailing kindness and exceptional skill, has made me so proud to be a part of the work that happens here.

While the turtle was being cared for and spending time healing in our reptile room, I found my own journey at the Center was running parallel to his. The same people who were caring for him were also welcoming me into an incredible field of work and an awesome team of people. I’ve been very fortunate to work with people who are more than willing to answer my questions and offer plenty of teaching moments. I have been increasingly inspired to deepen my knowledge about wildlife and how we can contribute to the balance of our eco-system through helping wildlife.

Before coming to work at the Center, I spent several years as a stay-at-home mom. An education program put on by the Center at my children’s school reignited my childhood interest in wildlife, and several months later I decided it was time to feed that inner fire. The little girl inside of me is thrilled every day I come to work and play my role at the front desk of the Center.

Finally, after more than two months spent recovering and growing back a solid layer of keratin, the day for this turtle to be released came. It was truly a special moment taking this turtle safely back to its home, knowing it had a life of new possibilities ahead of it. And after joining the Wildlife Center team, I feel like I do too.


-- Lauren, Front-desk Coordinator

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

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