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About Us

Over 19 Years of Saving and Protecting Florida's Native Wildlife

The sign for the Wildlife Center of Southwest Florida located at 925 N. Jackson Road in Venice is a reassuring sight if you've ever found an injured wild animal and brought it to this wildlife hospital.

Every living creature on this planet has a place and plays an important role in the ecosystem. We understand how important it is to maintain that balance.

Our team of staff and volunteers work tirelessly every day to further that mission: To protect and preserve Southwest Florida’s native wildlife through educational outreach and to rescue and rehabilitate sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife and return them to their natural habitat when healed.

You can always contact our office by emailing us at: office@wildlifeswfl.org

MEET OUR STAFF

ADMINISTRATIVE STAFF:

PAMELA DEFOUW - EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

A Florida native, with her mom’s help Pam started raising wildlife at a very young age.

She earned a degree in Film and Criminal Justice from the State College of Florida and started creating independent films that raised awareness about wildlife and its importance in protecting our sensitive ecosystems. Pam’s goal was to use her degree to pursue a career with Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Commission to help preserve and protect Florida’s endangered wildlife.In 2010, Pam became a volunteer for the Wildlife Center of Venice in order to learn more about our native wildlife and she was immediately drawn in by the mission of the Center. Soon after, she was offered a full-time position with the Center and she spent the next 10 years caring for sick, injured, and orphaned wildlife. Now, as the Executive Director, she has the privilege of helping to build one of the largest wildlife hospitals in the area, focusing on education as well as rehabilitation.

Pam attends several state and national conferences every year to learn more and more about this ever-changing and challenging field and she uses her knowledge to train current and future rehabilitators.

Pam holds state and federal rehabilitation permits and she is currently attending school for Veterinary Technology.

CHRISTINA JUDD - OUTREACH COORDINATOR

Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Christina has been an animal enthusiast for as long as she could breathe. She moved to Florida in 2000, drawn to the Suncoast in her early twenties for its flora and fauna. She spent years hiking and photographing nature and wildlife. Christina has a deep appreciation for all living creatures. The environment is a top concern for her. She enjoys learning new and sustainable ways to improve our lives while staying in balance with the planet.

Christina is the Content Coordinator and Writer for both The Neighbors of the West Villages and North Port Living Magazines. While it may be her side project, she enjoys meeting new community members each month and working as a conduit in making connections within the community to foster growth.

After a decade of running her own business offering her services in marketing and technology to various locally owned businesses here in town, she was ready to do something that better aligned with her heart.

She brings her skills and talents to the Wildlife Center of Southwest Florida to further our mission as a strong ally to all living creatures. In her position as Outreach Coordinator, she hopes to help educate the public about how important our wildlife is in maintaining a natural balance in our various ecosystems.

KEVIN BURNS - RESCUE COORDINATOR

Kevin Burns grew up here in Venice, the first of five children. He has lived in the Venice/Nokomis areas his whole life. From an early age, he developed a love of animals. He helped care for many of his family's pets which included dogs, cats, frogs, snakes, chickens, and bearded dragons. Growing up, he found inspiration in the likes of Steve Irwin, Jeff Corwin, and David Attenborough. He earned a degree in Environmental Studies locally at Florida Gulf Coast University. Further feeding his desire to work in the conservation field. Kevin hopes to someday have his own educational channel.

His hobbies include golfing, animal care, cooking, and pickleball. Kevin brings his love of animals and his compassionate heart into play as the Rescue Coordinator for the Wildlife Center of Southwest Florida. Working to arrange animal rescues while engaging and educating our callers with animal information and ways to coexist with wildlife.

IVY SMART - FINANCE COORDINATOR

After 20 years as a Health Facilities Administrator and 12 years in finance for a Mega Church in Indianapolis, Ivy is now living her dream of working with animals. She has always had a love of animals, especially wildlife. She uses the abundant skills and knowledge that she has developed over the years to manage the office functions at the Wildlife Center of Southwest Florida. With extensive experience in the development of policy and procedures, writing and implementation, legal and government inspection, finance, computer, staff coaching, and public speaking experience. Ivy is also known here at the center as our squirrel whisperer. She is often found assisting in our baby mammal nursery. Putting her whispering talents to use raising many of the orphans we receive. She considers herself blessed to be doing what she loves, and we consider our center equally as blessed to have her at the helm of our office as our Finance Coordinator.

MEDICAL STAFF:

ADRIANNA DEFOUW - REHABILITATOR

Adrianna is one of our amazing rehabilitators for the Wildlife Center of Southwest Florida. She has always had a love for animals, which is what brought her to the center in 2012 as a high school intern. Over the years, she has attended many national conferences and has received her certification with the IWRC. A student of SCF, she is working towards her associate degree in environmental science and expanding the importance of wildlife through education.

Her attention to detail and ability to always put what's best for the animal first are just a few of the reasons why Adrianna is so good at what she does. She is a phenomenal rehabber, and we are so grateful to have her on our team.

BRITTANY BURNS - REHABILITATOR

Brittany is a Florida native who began volunteering for the Wildlife Center of Southwest Florida in 2015 and became one of our Wildlife Rehabilitators in 2018. Her love for Florida’s majestic and stunning wildlife long surpassed her work here at the center. Brittany enjoys volunteering her time outside of work with the home care of nestlings, mammals, rescues, and releases. Her ultimate dream is to continue learning from the phenomenal mentor and one day expand the facility to other locations dedicated to the rehabilitation and education of the world's most beautiful creatures.

MEET OUR BOARD OF DIRECTORS

KAREN DURETTE - PRESIDENT

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Karen Durette earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Simmons University. Upon graduation, Karen planned to work with wildlife but there were no real opportunities. The Park Ranger Corps did not accept women at the time so she refocused her energies on earning an MBA in Business Management from Boston University. Karen spent much of her career as Vice President of Human Resources for GTE and General Dynamics.Though Karen retired as an executive of a Fortune 500 company, she is most proud of her post-retirement volunteer efforts. After taking early retirement, she moved to Venice and found the Wildlife Center. Karen likes to say that it took her 60 years to decide what she wanted to be when she grew up, spending the last 11 years working in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. She has spent countless hours tirelessly rehabilitating various wildlife in the local community, including many late-night rescues. In 2017, she joined the Board of Directors and has spent the last two years as

Secretary of the Board. Karen’s commitment to the mission cannot be overstated as she has dedicated her time, skill, and effort in just about every capacity—rescues, rehabilitation, the release of wildlife, dispatch and office activities, fundraising, education, and community outreach. 

Karen lives in Venice with her husband, Andy, their pit bull rescue, Rosie, and numerous home-care wildlife babies.

Affiliations:

  • University of New Hampshire FSWC – Board of Directors

  • Blue Ocean Society

  • Boston Harbor Sailing Club

  • Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM)

JOSEPH POLZAK- VICE PRESIDENT

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Joe Polzak serves as the Police Legal Advisor for the Sarasota Police Department (SPD) and Assistant City Attorney for the City of Sarasota.  He has also served as legal counsel for several other law enforcement agencies.  Mr. Polzak formerly served as an Assistant State Attorney for the State of Florida with assignments as a felony prosecutor in the Sarasota, Manatee, and DeSoto County offices.  He received his Juris Doctor degree from Stetson University College of Law and a Bachelor of Science in Political Science from Florida State University.  Mr. Polzak is an active member of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), IACP Legal Officers Section, Florida Association of Police Attorneys, Florida Bar, Sarasota County Bar Association, and the Judge John M. Scheb American Inn of Court.  He has written several articles for IACP Police Chief magazine and conducted presentations on law enforcement best practices at many national conferences including the IACP, International City/County Managers Association (ICMA), and leadership work groups of the Council of

State Governments (CSG) and U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA).  Mr. Polzak received numerous awards, including the Sarasota NAACP President’s Award, for his work on an SPD community response program that won the IACP Leadership in Human and Civil Rights Award.  He also helped develop an environmental protection program for SPD, in partnership with several community organizations, that was selected for the IACP Chief David Cameron Leadership in Environmental Crimes Award.  Mr. Polzak is a longtime resident of Sarasota County and is excited to help the Wildlife Center of Southwest Florida expand its operational reach in support of its mission.

Affiliations:

  • International Association of Chiefs of Police

  • Florida Association of Police Attorneys

  • Florida Bar/Sarasota County Bar Association

  • Sarasota NAACP President's Award Recipients

JAN STEBER - SECRETARY

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Jan Steber earned a Bachelor of Science and master’s degrees in petroleum engineering from Penn State. Joining Mobil Oil, he worked in Venezuela, Libya (where he met Joan, his wife of 55 years), Paris, Nigeria, Norway, Dallas, and Australia where he retired as Producing Manager after 37 years of service. Living on south Siesta Key since 1993 and feeling they should return some of their good fortunes to the community, Jan and Joan began volunteering at Meals on Wheels and Pelican Man’s Bird Sanctuary in 1993. Jan began animal rescue, transport, and release with the Wildlife Center of Venice in 2004. In 2018, he joined the Board as Vice President. The Mobil Foundation donates $500 to a charity if a retiree puts in 40 hours of volunteering in a calendar quarter. In 15 years, Jan has never failed to earn this donation. Jan has also been an active blood donor.

Affiliations:

  • Penn State Alumni Chapter of the Sun Coast – Board of Directors

  • Society of Petroleum Engineers

  • Sarasota Power and Sail Squadron

SANDI RAASCH - TREASURER

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Sandi Raasch was born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa. She emigrated to Australia, where she became an Australian citizen. A true explorer at heart, Sandi moved to London for two years, lived in Paris for almost one year, hitchhiked around Europe for several months, and then settled down in St. Thomas USVI for 12 years before moving to Florida in 1987.

Sandi has been an Enrolled Agent (a tax preparer licensed to practice before the IRS) since 1996 and in 2015, she sold her Tax and Bookkeeping business. After enjoying retirement for three long weeks, her energetic and generous nature inspired her to continue preparing taxes while spending the rest of her free time dedicated to multiple volunteer activities in the local community. In 2017, Sandi joined the Board of Directors of Wildlife Center and was soon elevated to Treasurer. Her passion for the rescue and rehabilitation of local wildlife and forward-thinking mentality have been a powerful driving force behind the advancement of the Center.

Sandi lives in Nokomis with her two rescue cats, Michi and Kira.

Affiliations:

  • Sertoma Club of Venice – Treasurer

  • Friends of the Legacy Trail

  • Loveland Center

  • All Faiths Food Bank

BRIAN ANGELILLIS - DIRECTOR  

Brian Angelillis, a Florida native raised on the Gulf Coast, is happily married to his wife Elizabeth. Together, they are the proud parents to three children, two in high school and one in middle school. Brian is an Accredited Asset Management Specialist working as a Financial Advisor with his Edward Jones Investment practice in downtown Venice. His passion lies in protecting the native animals of Southwest Florida, advocating for often-forgotten species. When not attending his kid’s lacrosse activities or exercising outdoors, Brian, a Certified Arborist, deepens his appreciation for all that nature has to offer. 

Affiliations:

  • Sertoma Club of Venice

  • University of Florida Alumni

 

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