Team Of Women Transforming Restaurant Into Nature’s Nursery

The transformation of a former restaurant into the new Nature’s Nursery headquarters on Dutch Road is being led by an all-woman team, including (from left) Cheryl Hinkle, Ashley Kramer, Laura Zitzelberger, Jamie Forbush, Allison Schroeder, Nicole Frederick, Denise Bomer, Denise Dahl and Katherine Mestas. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — When it comes to caring for the 3,700 injured and orphaned wildlife that arrive at Nature’s Nursery every year, it’s typically women doing the nurturing. 

So it was no surprise to executive director Allison Schroeder when the architecture, engineering and construction firms working on the new Nature’s Nursery headquarters all had female employees sign up for the project.

“It was pure coincidence that each independently had women volunteer to take on the job,” Schroeder said. “Of course, we don’t discriminate against men – who are just as supportive of Nature’s Nursery – but it’s been fun working closely with this team of dynamic, professional women.”

PMBA Architects’ project manager Denise Bomer and architectural intern Katherine Mestas, along with BMID owner Buffy McConnell and JDRM Engineering mechanical HVAC designer Cheryl Hinkle, volunteered their services to reconfigure the interior of the former restaurant at 7451 Dutch Rd. so that it will meet the needs of Nature’s Nursery staff, volunteers, the public and of course, the wildlife that are cared for on-site.

“This has allowed for a lot of creativity,” said Mestas, who will begin graduate school in architecture at Bowling Green State University this fall. A native of Peru, Mestas said she loves animals and was excited for the opportunity. 

While Bomer worked with Nature’s Nursery staff and board members to design and draw the new floor plan, Mestas created the 3-D renderings that represent actual views of the facility’s different areas. McConnell, an interior designer who frequently works as a consultant for PMBA, eagerly jumped on board to select interior finishes. Flooring, paint, laminate and solid surface materials were selected to complement the building’s existing features and help create a calm, functional, fun and inviting environment for both humans and wildlife.  

Plans were continuously shared back and forth with JDRM. Hinkle reviewed the existing systems in the building before adding in HVAC plans to the drawings.

This isn’t the first time Hinkle has volunteered her time for Nature’s Nursery. She worked on plans for a proposed new build on property owned and donated by Courageous Acres on Archbold-Whitehouse Road for the new Nature’s Nursery center. Unfortunately, those plans were scrapped when the cost of new materials and construction skyrocketed after the pandemic. Schroeder did well in finding an existing, solid building with available land, Hinkle said.

“This new facility is an ideal fit with lots of character. The existing mechanical, electrical and plumbing equipment is all operational. The land is perfect, with having all the existing utilities accessible and available, which is a huge cost savings for the organization,” said Hinkle, who has often visited Nature’s Nursery with her grandchildren for the educational days and volunteered with the nonprofit.

The Delventhal Company, which was selected to construct the project, also has a history of volunteering at Nature’s Nursery.

“Delventhal has done several service projects, and it was so much fun,” said business development manager Denise Dahl.

A Delventhal crew cleaned up the landscaping around the current Nature’s Nursery headquarters and the outdoor enclosures that house geese, ducks, owls, raptors and Lenny the red fox.

“I didn’t really know much about Nature’s Nursery until our company did the volunteer event, and afterwards, I was hooked,” said project manager Ashley Kramer. “So, when we received confirmation that our company was awarded the project, I declared to be project manager and I got it. And getting to work with an all-women team is a bonus.”

Knowing that Delventhal staff were familiar with Nature’s Nursery’s facility needs and operation certainly weighed into the decision to choose the company, Schroeder said.

Delventhal took the renderings from PMBA Architects and JDRM and added in details to make them construction-ready. Crews are set to begin on the 14-week project soon.

The 5,700-square-foot building was already previously divided into two for a combination restaurant and carryout. For Nature’s Nursery, that means space for the Laura Zitzelberger Rehabilitation Center and the Davey Moore Education Center. 

Zitzelberger, who co-founded the wildlife rehabilitation center in 1989, is looking forward to seeing a larger space that will feature six individual clinic spaces for animal care, a surgical room, X-ray room, an aquatic animal care area and a lab.

Adding a dedicated education space – named for longtime volunteer Davey Moore – will allow the public to take classes, experience an indoor habitat and visit with the education animals.

Outside, the 8.6 acres of land will accommodate additional enclosures for animals in a secure environment that is open to the public. Currently, the public is not allowed to visit the outdoor enclosures, Schroeder said.

For the team of women from Nature’s Nursery, including operations director Nicole Frederick and education director Jamie Forbush, joining up with the female professionals has been a fun, yet familiar experience.

“We’re kind of used to it being all women – Nature’s Nursery has been primarily run by women since the beginning,” Zitzelberger said.

For information about volunteering or donating, visit www.natures-nursery.org.

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