Giving a Gift for Conservation

John and Debbie Schilbe, donation, Florence, tribute, NWF, National Wildlife Federation
John and Debbie Schilbe, here at the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park, recently made a tribute donation to NWF in honor of John’s mother, Florence, who played a key role in nurturing his interest in wildlife.
Donors are the foundation of NWF’s success in protecting wildlife and habitat, getting children outdoors and fighting climate change. The threats facing the natural world are diverse and ever-changing, putting heavy demands on NWF resources—which is why every gift and every donor is important to Federation efforts.

An example of how the commitment and generosity of NWF members turn into action on the ground can be seen in the efforts of John Schilbe, an NWF member since the 1970s, and his wife Debbie, who support the Federation’s work educating Americans about conservation and protecting wildlife, particularly bison and bighorn sheep through Adopt A Wildlife Acre.

Honoring a Relative

Last year, John’s mother, Florence, passed away two days shy of her 100th birthday. For John and Debbie, it was a natural decision to honor Florence’s life with a memorial tribute to the National Wildlife Federation.

Florence Schilbe, John's mother, feeds chickens in her Michigan backyard at the age of 2  in summer 1914. She learned early to value animals.
Florence Schilbe, John’s mother, feeds chickens in her Michigan backyard at the age of 2 in summer 1914. She learned early to value animals.
Florence Schilbe grew up in rural Michigan, feeding chickens in her backyard and picking wild blueberries with her friends for summer spending money. She attended a county normal school in the early 1930s, training to become a teacher, then taught eight grades in a one-room schoolhouse. When a lightning strike burned down the school, Florence returned to college for an education degree and became a kindergarten teacher in Lansing.

There she met John’s dad, Lloyd, who worked up the street at the State Capitol. Michigan law at the time precluded married women from working as teachers, so when Florence and Lloyd decided to marry, Florence turned in her resignation at the end of the school year and went to work raising her family. She brought up John with visits to zoos and the outdoors, and John believes Florence would have been an ardent advocate of Eco-Schools USA, the NWF program that strives to integrate science and environmentally sound practices into school curricula and improve science-based academic performance among students. “We appreciate the good work that NWF does,” John says, “and it feels right to honor my mother with a tribute in this meaningful way.”

How You Can Help

Donors like the Schilbes who honor friends and relatives through their philanthropy are among NWF’s best advocates and the reason that the Federation’s conservation efforts continue. This holiday season, give a gift that creates a better future for wildlife by making a tribute gift. Or help wildlife by participating in Adopt A Wildlife Acre.

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Published: December 12, 2013