"We're flying high right now all because of you," outgoing Florida Keys Wild Center Executive Director Joan Scholz told a crowd celebrating the opening of a new rehabilitation center in Tavernier.
The Aug. 14 event at mile marker 92 marked a new chapter for the organization, and honored Scholz as she stepped down from her four-year tenure leading the center.
Board President John Stuart praised Scholz as "another angel" whose "perseverance and flat-out stubbornness" ensured the survival of the center founded by the late Laura Quinn.
News stories "were often about how the center was at risk of closing its doors," Stuart said. "Now the stories are about us fulfilling our mission to support the wild birds of the Florida Keys."
Scholz was credited with spearheading the acquisition of the new bird hospital, upgrading its facilities at a nearby four-acre sanctuary, and improving the organization's financial stability.
The new rehabilitation facility was purchased in part with a $265,000 grant from the Monroe County Tourist Development Council. Monroe County Mayor Sylvia Murphy helped Scholz cut the ribbon for the center that features an operating room and educational center.
"We've turned the corner," Scholz said in thanking supporters and "an awesome staff."