Debbie Read, the founder of Wild Wise Sooke, has passed the organization she built to the next generation.
The group that Read founded nine years ago will be led by Samantha Webb. She’s volunteered with Wise Wild Wise Sooke for a year.
“I was ready for a rest,” said Read, who’s resignation takes effect immediately.
“I’ve volunteered for years and the program has grown and developed to be a busy job.”
So busy that Read reached out to Lush Cosmetics Charitable Giving Fund for the financial support that would allow Wild Wise to employ a staff person to carry on the work of the organization.
The request was accepted and Lush agreed to pay an annual grant that will allow Wild Wise to take its work to the next level.
The genesis of Wild Wise is a tale that both demonstrates Read’s commitment to preserving and protecting the natural world and her sense of whimsy and optimism.
“When I first moved out here, there was a bear in the area and I had a few neighbours arrive with a petition asking the Conservation Service to come out and shoot the bear,” recalled Read.
“I got on the phone and called (conservation officer) Peter Pauwels.”
When she made that call, Read didn’t immediately identify herself but, rather, said that it was actually the troublesome bear calling.
“I said I was the black bear in the Jordan River area, and I wanted to know what he was doing to keep me from getting shot,” Read said.
Shortly after, her organization was born.
Read educated herself on the issue of wayward bears and collaborated with provincial leaders, the B.C. Conservation Service, and other wildlife groups to create a successful program for the community.
“We’ve had a big impact in the Sooke area, and I’m proud to say that the number of human-bear conflicts has reduced substantially. The year I got here there were, I believe, 27 bears shot. This past year, I think it was one,” Read said.
And although Read has stepped down as the leader of the group, she said she will still be offering her time as a volunteer and is looking forward to passing on her expertise and advice.
“And you never know,” said Read with a chuckle.
“I may go out and start another group for some other cause that I believe in.”