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Operation Orphan getting funds from longtime West Akron group

5/12/2011 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Public invited to park event

Fran Kitchen, founder of Operation Orphan Wildlife Rescue Inc., is shown above with a baby groundhog while visiting with Arrowhead Primary School students in Copley in 2007. Shown abelow are a great horned owl and a bobcat, both of which are scheduled to appear at Kitchen’s spring wildlife event May 21 at Portage Lakes State Park.
Photos: Ken Crisafi/file photos
WEST AKRON — Local wildlife rescuer Fran Kitchen and her nonprofit organization will be the recipient of funding through a grant bequeathed through a longtime West Akron civic organization.

The three remaining trustees for the Fairlawn Park Garden and Civic Center, which operated out of the one-room schoolhouse at the intersection of West Market Street and White Pond Drive from 1958 to 2002, decided to help Kitchen with the $5,500 remaining in its account.

Trustees Peggy Harry, the group’s last president; Cathy Welner, watercolor instructor; and Mary Deal chose Operation Orphan because they felt it represented the center’s values of quiet, steadfast service to the community, according to Deal.

“She does really remarkable work,” Deal said of Kitchen, who has become well known in the Akron area for her efforts to rescue wildlife and educate others about it.

Deal added the center partnered with Wild4Ever, a local wildlife conservation group founded by veterinarian Dr. Garry Riggs, to administer the funds. Riggs said the group will hold onto the funds and accept donations to match the amount.

Riggs, who donates his services for Operation Orphan, said the money will go toward food and housing of animals that Kitchen tends.

Kitchen, a Kenmore resident, said she was thrilled to be chosen as the recipient of the funding. She said she has worked to rehabilitate wildlife for 48 years and founded her organization in 1988, establishing it as a nonprofit in 1992.

She said she works with between 800 and 1,000 animals a year.

“The goal is to get them back where they belong,” Kitchen said.

Deal said she and the trustees asked that Kitchen open up her annual spring wildlife event to the public. Kitchen said the event usually is for donors to Operation Orphan only.

The event will take place May 21 at 3 p.m. in the Big Oak Pavilion at Portage Lakes State Park, 5031 Manchester Road.

Kitchen said she usually tries to have some baby animals for the event, but it will depend on the weather.

“No matter what, I’ll have my groundhog, bobcat and education owl, which is a great horned owl,” she said. “If it’s nice, I should have bunnies and squirrels. Right now I also have a baby weasel.”

Kitchen said she also will accept donations at the event.

Riggs said he is happy to help with the effort to provide funding to Operation Orphan. He added he’s known Kitchen since 1984.

“She’s incredible,” he said. “She does the work of 10 people.”

Donations to match the Fairlawn Park funds can be made at www.wild4ever.com.

Riggs added Kitchen will appear at Wild4Ever’s Conservation Walk and Expo June 11 at Silver Creek Metro Park in Norton from 9 a.m. to noon.

For more information, contact Kitchen at 330-745-2947.

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