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Devoted volunteer Kristin Black entrusted with symbol of wisdom at WNC Nature Center

A volunteer has cultivated enough respect and trust at the WNC Nature Center to earn what she calls a "magical experience."

Our Person of the Week is Kristin Black, who does everything from talk to visitors to show off the birds at the Nature Center.

"Hello," she said to guests at the front desk recently. "There's going to be an education program with Art the barn owl. As you can see, he's extremely handsome."

A warm greeting is part of the heartbeat so vital to the facility. Education specialist Lauren Pyle points to Black as a shining example of the 100 volunteers who help all around the park.

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"Kristin's amazing," Pyle said. "She's one of those volunteers who said I want to get involved more. You can see that passion in her."

Black was already invaluable as a front desk volunteer, but what makes her unique is the ambition you'd expect from a paid employee.

Black wanted to spread her wings by handling a special bird that helps educate the public.

"Hey there little dude, I know it's been a while," she said, taking an Eastern screech owl named Junior under her wing. "Step up. Good boy, good boy! That's a good bird.

"When kids and adults come by and see him, they're like, "Wow, an owl!" she said.

"He was a victim of a car accident," she tells guests with Junior on her left arm. "So, he's actually blind in that left eye there."

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Black hopes by telling Junior's story, she can show guests why simple actions have consequences on nature.

"You can help prevent that by not throwing any food scraps out of your car and keeping them out of the road ways," she explained. "What that does is attract rodents and other animals that he would eat."

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Black said she feels an obligation to protect those we share the earth with.

So, what started out as a way to get to know people when she moved to Asheville has evolved into a passion.

"I've built my work and school shifts around volunteering, so I think that says a lot," she said.

Pyle said Black is hardworking, reliable and dedicated.

"She's one of the people who can be here all the time. Yeah, there you go Kristin!" Pyle said.

Maybe it's appropriate that Black is close to a symbol of wisdom and knowledge. Sometimes when you give back, you get more than you bargained for in return.

"Getting to do this is pretty magical," she said.

The WNC Nature Center said volunteers get special privileges, including invitations to Friends of the Nature Center events and access to the animals. Click here for more information on volunteering.

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