Blue Ridge Wildlife Center Founder Removed from Board

By Amy Alonzo
The Winchester Star, October 31, 2015

MILLWOOD — Blue Ridge Wildlife Center founder Dr. Belinda Burwell has been
removed as the nonprofit organization’s director of the board.

“It was decided that the interests of the organization are best served by ending the
service of Dr. Belinda Burwell as director,” an organization press release announced
Friday.

“The mission of [the center] is to rescue and care for native wildlife, educate the
public about wildlife issues and concerns and conduct wildlife research throughout
the region it serves,” the statement reads. “Those principles include a clear
separation between duties and responsibilities of the organization’s Board of
Directors and the organization’s employees, as well as term limits for directors to
ensure accountability.”

The announcement should conclude what has been a recent conflict between
Burwell and the center.

Burwell, a veterinarian, founded the center about 15 years ago to rehabilitate injured
wildlife with help from her father, Charles Burwell.

She started the center as a medical hotline, and in 2004, began operating on land
owned by her family’s trust off Tilthammer Road in Clarke County.

The center currently operates out of an 800-square-foot cottage, while a new $1.3
million building, expected to open early next year, is being constructed.
Burwell had served as the center’s veterinarian and on the Board of Directors since
the beginning.

In 2010, her position became salaried, she said during a Friday phone interview.
“I know after that a couple of board members were uncomfortable — can you be on
the board and be on the staff?” she said. “Not that there was anything that went
wrong, but there were a couple board members that were uncomfortable.”

In 2012, a three-year term limit for board members — who are unpaid — was
established, with the support of Burwell. She and a second original board member
were grandfathered in as lifetime members, Burwell said.

In October 2014, Burwell resigned as executive director of the center, but stayed on
until David Bancroft was hired in April.

“I was way overworked and I wanted help,” Burwell said, “But the people who’ve
taken over don’t understand enough about what we do there. Mistakes are being
made. That’s what makes me sad. It’s really a big mess.”

Burwell was then contracted to provide veterinary services at the center until Dec.
31.

But on Sept. 15, Bancroft asked her to leave the property, she said.

“I had a contract with them, but I’m not allowed to go to the property so that kind of
nullifies the contract,” she said. “I’ve asked several times if I could come and check
on the animals and they’ve said, ‘No.’”

When asked in a phone interview Friday if Burwell still had access to the center, Lisa
Goshen, chairwoman of the Board of Directors, replied, “At this time, no.”

When asked if Burwell’s contract would be renewed for 2016, Goshen replied, “I
don’t want to talk about employment issues.”

A temporary veterinarian is working with the center until a full-time one is hired,
Goshen said.

The temporary vet is “not a wildlife vet, but she’s a vet,” she said.
Burwell, who is working at Roseville Veterinary Clinic in Clarke County, is continuing
to treat wildlife, she said.

“I’m still seeing animals,” she said. “Unfortunately, I can’t see them and hospitalize
them… at the facility that I started. I’m kind of back where I started, but I’m still
helping wildlife. I’ll always do that.”

— Contact Amy Alonzo at aalonzo@winchesterstar.com


View this article as a Wildlife Center Founder Removed From Board, The Winchester Star – October 31, 2015

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