A recent study by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that every dollar spent on National Wildlife Refuges contributes many times more dollars to our local communities. Our Refuge in particular was found to contribute $6.81 to the local economy for every federal dollar spent. That's money spent on fishing tackle and canoe rentals and restaurants and hotel stays. And we already knew that one out of three Floridians, or 7 million people, depend on the Everglades for their water supply.
But if you attended our recent Friends luncheon and listened to our fascinating speaker Dr. Caren Neile (if you didn't you missed a treat!) you heard that facts and figures don't really sway people; stories do. And all of us have a story to tell, though we may not realize it. To our Friends members and volunteers and donors, our Refuge is a special place. And there's a reason we all feel that way. I have heard from a number of you who have said it's a place your parents brought you when you were little, and as the years have gone by and you have grown up, it's now a place you bring your own children. Or that now it's you who bring your parents. Amy Falk shared her story with me when she dedicated a brick paver in our walkway to her sister Laura Scott. They discovered the Refuge many years ago thanks to a friend of their mother's. Since then, Amy said her sister Laura has "dragged" every member of the family here, including their mother, even after she was well into her 90's. Dr. Peggy VanArman discovered this place in her teens. Now her grown daughter Lauren has two of her lovely works of art on display in our auditorium - can you spot her great blue heron and her cormorant and chick?
So do you have a story to share? If Dr. Neile is right and I think she might be, stories change us - it is only through stories that we can truly convey why a place like this is so special, and why we need to take care of it.
Elinor Williams President