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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, January 02, 2019 9:49 am

Verbatim: Sanctuary Director Stepping Down

The following was released on Wed. Jan. 2, 2019 by Black Pine Animal Sanctuary:

Albion, IN – Following nearly 13 years of leadership at Black Pine Animal Sanctuary in Albion, Lori Gagen is stepping down as the organization’s executive director. Gagen announced she is leaving to assume a position at the Noble County Economic Development Corporation in Albion beginning January 21. 

Gagen announced her resignation to sanctuary staff and board members on New Year’s Eve day. Her departure comes after more than 23 years of service to Black Pine’s mission, the first eleven of which were as a volunteer. Gagen hopes to continue to volunteer at the sanctuary indefinitely, but is looking forward to a new chapter and more time to pursue other interests and leisure activities with her husband, Dan. 

“It’s been a wild ride, no pun intended!” said Gagen. “I am stepping down as director but will continue to advocate and support Black Pine as long as I possibly can, just in a different and less intense capacity.” 

In 2006, at the beginning of Gagen’s tenure, Black Pine relocated and built an all-new facility to provide lifetime care for displaced, captive-raised wildcats, bears, wild canines, parrots, grazing animals, primates, reptiles and more. During the years since, she has led the sanctuary through continued growth and many improvements, including the addition of the Wolf Den Gifts and Things retail store and educational resource center in 2014, and significant capital improvements that have included paving projects, a new septic system, and an increase in the number of paid staff from two to seven employees. 

Black Pine became a Better Business Bureau Accredited Charity in 2011 and has received numerous awards related to non-profit transparency and best practices. The sanctuary was accepted as a member of the Big Cat Sanctuary Alliance in 2017, a non-profit organization that “works to eliminate private ownership and the commercial exploitation of wild cats in the United States,” according to their website. Sanctuary membership is restricted to establishments that provide “lifelong care for abused, neglected, unwanted, impounded, abandoned, orphaned or displaced wild cats and adhere to a variety of best practices”, and a code of conduct that supports the alliance’s mission. 

“I am so grateful for an opportunity to remain in this community that I enjoy so much and to begin a new chapter of collaborations and efforts that will help Noble County prosper,” Gagen said. “Black Pine may always serve as an example of what is possible, even in a rural town, and something of which we can all be very proud.” 

“Lori has been such an important part of the growth of Black Pine and she will be greatly missed. We wish her well in her new job and are sure she will help Noble County grow and prosper,” said Barb Smith, board president. 

The board will immediately begin the search process for a new executive director. “We appreciate Lori’s willingness to help as we introduce a new director in the coming weeks. On behalf of the board, I thank Lori for her years of service to Black Pine, the community, the staff, and all our resident animals,” said Smith. 

The Gagens will continue to live in Albion where they own and operate Noble Art Gallery on the courthouse square.