As the islands’ second most popular attraction (after the beaches), the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel counts as an essential economic driver and the largest landholder on Sanibel and Captiva. Its recovery from Hurricane Ian is crucial to the destination’s survival. Supervisory Refuge Ranger Toni Westland will speak about the refuge’s ongoing comeback efforts and new and upcoming developments. Ann-Marie Wildman, executive director of the “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society (DDWS), the refuge’s nonprofit arm, will join her on Wednesday, Nov. 15, for the SanCap Chamber business luncheon at The Community House on Sanibel.
DDWS and SCORE sponsor the monthly business meeting, which begins at 11:30 a.m.
Westland has worked for “Ding” Darling since 2002, starting as an education specialist. In 2009, she moved up into her current position overseeing visitor services, media relations, and education missions. Under her tenure, the refuge has seen major new developments in education and visitor services, including the WoW (Wildlife on Wheels) mobile classroom, to further its outreach initiatives, and the award-winning Learning Lavatories at the Visitor & Education Center.
Since the refuge reopened in April following severe hurricane damage, Westland has supervised the opening of The Roost outdoor flex pavilion in October plus ongoing cleanup and restoration of trails and facilities. She will share future projects and repairs the refuge has in the works.
Wildman joined the DDWS team first as a member of the board of directors and volunteer. She later accepted a position as Refuge Nature Store manager, based on more than 30 years of experience as an art gallery manager and owner in Hawaii and British Columbia. She later moved into the position of associate executive director, and earlier this year, the board of directors promoted her to executive director. In that position, Wildman oversees fundraising, land acquisition, events, and other philanthropic efforts to support the refuge’s mission of conservation, research, and education.
“We always love to hear what’s going on and upcoming at ‘Ding’ Darling,” said SanCap Chamber President and CEO John Lai. “Now more than ever, the economic health and prosperity of our business community relies on Sanibel’s strong conservation ethic and the success of the refuge’s reputation as one of the nation’s top birding and wildlife experiences. The energy of the ‘Ding’ team is always inspiring.”
The chamber business lunch is a monthly networking opportunity held at various member locations. The chamber strives to provide speakers to discuss business topics relevant to the membership. The public is invited; SanCap Chamber members receive meeting invitations by email. Cost for luncheon attendance is $35.
Advanced registration is required to attend; walk-ins are not accepted. Register by 5 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 10, at sanibel-captiva.org or by contacting Aaron Walton at [email protected] or 239-472-8759. Payment is due at time of registration.
ABOUT SANCAP CHAMBER
The SanCap Chamber of Commerce is dedicated to promoting the prosperity of its members and preserving the quality of life of our community. The Chamber plays a key role in facilitating communication and cooperation between business, residents, and government to enhance the economic health of the islands. Its website, sanibel-captiva.org, receives over 1.3 million visits per year. For more information about the chamber, visit sanibel-captiva.org or contact John Lai, president and CEO, at 239-472-2348 or [email protected].