By Denise Crosby email@example.com January 8, 2013 11:02PM
Sandra Wilcoxon, new interim executive director of A.D.O.P.T., poses with Kelsey, a special needs kitten the shelter is trying to place. Wilcoxon recently took over the helm of A.D.O.P.T. to bring much-needed leadership to the Naperville organization that had been hit by a series of controversies.
Updated: February 10, 2013 5:58PM
Sandra Wilcoxon didn’t walk into Naperville’s ADOPT Pet Shelter last October with the idea of bringing home another animal.
She already had two cats at home, for one thing. Plus, the purpose of this unannounced visit was to check out ADOPT to see if she would be a good candidate to steady the ship of this popular facility that had gone through an ugly storm of controversy over the past year.
But when she saw Marley looking at her with those big bright eyes, she knew this 4-year-old Bengal cat would have to join her family.
Wilcoxon is hoping her new appointment as interim executive director at ADOPT will also be a perfect fit.
The Oak Park woman was named in December to this post through a program with Executive Service Corps that finds temporary leaders, mostly for nonprofits going through change and needing to buy time while searching for someone more permanent.
Wilcoxon comes with 25 years of experience, including positions as executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Foundation in Oak Park, and as director of fundraising for Brookfield Zoo.
When the ADOPT board reached out to Executive Service Corps last year, the 23-year-old shelter was in crisis. A power struggle that involved President Sandra Boston at the center had reduced the once vibrant board to five members, with accusations flying more furiously than the hair on a frightened tabby’s back.
Tensions have escalated to the point of a nasty name-calling blog, volunteers banned from membership, legal threats flying and at several meetings, police presence. At one point, ADOPT founders were pulled into the controversy, and even Mayor George Pradel was called upon to try and bring about a truce.
It was no wonder when ADOPT got around to contacting Executive Service Corps, the shelter freely admitted, said Wilcoxon, “we need help.”
It’s also no surprise she wanted to check out things for herself before going any further in the interview process.
That’s when she made the anonymous visit to the Naperville facility. That’s also when she not only fell for Marley, but also for ADOPT.
Wilcoxon was pleasantly surprised, not only at the state of the building itself, but how “warm, compassionate, and professional all the volunteers and staff were.” Everyone, she noted, cares deeply about the organization’s mission and the number of animals in need that have increased because of the economic downturn.
No doubt her love for animals helped land this job for Wilcoxon. Her stint with ADOPT will be for about a year, long enough to help find her replacement, as well as qualified board members to fill out the many vacancies left by the unfortunate fighting. She praised Boston, who will remain as board president, for her “tireless efforts” in keeping the shelter going, and the new leader is already looking at ways to grow the shelter in the coming years. Wilcoxon also plans to work closely with other local groups, including the Naperville Humane Society and Anderson Animal Shelter in Elgin, in her quest to meet the needs of the Fox Valley.
Wilcoxon wants to reiterate that, even though her duties at the Naperville shelter will be temporary, Marley’s place in her heart — and home — is quite permanent. And even though she won’t be able to also take in Kelsey, a fluffy lovable kitten that will always need trach feedings because of a hole in her throat, the new executive director is determined to help find a family for this special needs animal ... because going above and beyond, she said, is what makes ADOPT so unique.
“It is a special place ... I’m proud to be part of it.”