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WNC Nature Center is our August Non-Profit of the Month

Asheville -- Asheville Chamber of Commerce September 1, 2021

The Western North Carolina Nature Center, our August Non-Profit of the Month, is advancing the important work being done to care for and protect the wildlife of our region. 

“The Friends of the WNC Nature Center and the WNC Nature Center work hand in hand to support the animals, education programs, and conservation initiatives of the Nature Center,” says Kate Frost, the Development & Marketing Director of Friends of the WNC Nature Center. “Neither organization can exist without the other, but together, we truly can do so much more to educate the community about the wildlife of the Southern Appalachian Mountains.”

Check out our full conversation with Kate Frost below…

Tell us a little of the history of the organization. 

“The Friends of the WNC Nature Center was formed in 1975 to support the WNC Nature Center, home to more than sixty species of animals who live or have lived in the Southern Appalachian Mountains. The Friends are a conservation organization that inspires the community to know more, care more, and do more for the wildlife of this region. As the nonprofit that supports the WNC Nature Center, The Friends of the WNC Nature Center advances the critical work being done by supporting the Nature Center’s growth and development through fundraising, membership, outreach education, marketing, and volunteer services.”

What’s a little-known fact or piece of trivia about your organization? 

“The WNC Nature Center used to be the Asheville Zoo, which opened in 1925 and had many exotic animals over the years, including elephants, monkeys, and lions. After closing in the early 1970s due to poor conditions, it was reopened as the WNC Nature Center with a renewed focus as an education facility committed to native wildlife of the Southern Appalachian Mountains.”

What are you most proud of about the organization? 

“The Friends’ Outreach Education Department brings animal programs to students, retirement communities, and libraries across Western North Carolina. These low-cost programs help bring the Nature Center to individuals and facilities who couldn’t necessarily visit the Nature Center on their own. This award-winning program reached 10,000 participants annually before COVID, and has continued to reach people across the state both in person and virtually since the pandemic.

Best advice you’ve gotten for operating a non-profit?

“If 2020 showed us anything, it’s that being flexible and responsive is the only way to survive. When the WNC Nature Center temporarily closed for six months due to COVID, the Friends had to pivot and find new ways to fundraise for the Nature Center and also provide educational opportunities that would continue to engage supporters who couldn’t visit. With the support of the Nature Center, we were able to create new virtual education programs and events that would stay true to our mission.”

Tips for other non-profits? 

“Partnerships with like-minded organizations not only amplify your work and voice, but they also make your message stronger. For example, the WNC Nature Center partners with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission’s program BearWise to provide bear education at our events. Having an expert voice reiterate your message is a win for everyone involved, especially our visitors.”

What’s next on the horizon? 

“The WNC Nature Center’s Vision for the Future includes upgrading current habitats and adding exciting new ones, including a permanent butterfly exhibit that will be near the Front Entrance and Barnyard areas. The Friends are in the planning stages now for this campaign and are gearing up to fundraise for this brand new exhibit to be completed in 2022.”

Our tagline is “Together, We Are More.” How does that apply to your organization or what does it mean to you? 

“The Friends of the WNC Nature Center and the WNC Nature Center work hand in hand to support the animals, education programs, and conservation initiatives of the Nature Center. Neither organization can exist without the other, but together, we truly can do so much more to educate the community about the wildlife of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. Partnering together allows us to accomplish so much more than we could have separately.”

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