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Everyday Heroes: Jackie Wilcox

Late one Thursday evening, an opossum was dropped off at Jackie Wilcox’s Cherokee County home. Severely injured after being hit by a car, the 61-year-old did the best she could to keep the wild animal comfortable overnight.

Upon inspection the next morning, Wilcox and a volunteer discovered that the opossum had a bad infection as well as other severe injuries. They immediately rushed to a makeshift operating table located in Wilcox’s basement turned wildlife rehabilitation center.

Despite their best efforts, the opossum did not make it.

“Sometimes it’s a good outcome,” said Wilcox. “This is not one of them, but there’s a room full of others that need you to take care of them.”

After wrapping the opossum in a warm blanket, she mourned the lost life. But just briefly, as there was a room full of others that still needed her care and attention.

Wilcox is the owner and operator of Lucky’s Place, a wildlife rehabilitation center, which she runs from her home. After retiring and helping raise her three grandchildren, she started Lucky’s Place - Where Wild Lives Matter.

Credit: Photo courtesy of Jackie Wilcox

Credit: Photo courtesy of Jackie Wilcox

Her goal at Lucky’s, named after her beloved rescue Dalmatian, is to rescue and rehabilitate wild animals, then release them back to the wild.

“Only 34 counties in the state of Georgia have licensed small mammal rehabbers.” said Brittany Shannon with the Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division. Wilcox is only one of the two people licensed to do this work in Cherokee County, Georgia.

As one of the few rehabbers in the area, Jackie often ends up taking in hundreds of animals in any given week, with cages spanning the walls of her home. The costs associated with taking care of wild animals –food and formula, cleaning supplies, medicine and more – can cost upwards of $200 a week.

In the 2 years of its operation, Jackie has garnered support from friends, family and Facebook followers to keep the rehab running. Most of the money and supplies that keep Lucky’s running come from volunteers and online supporters, or as Jackie likes to call them, “extended family”. Even though Jackie nor her volunteers get paid for this work, it’s the passion for wildlife and desire to help that keeps them going.

When Whitney Lavaux, 32, encountered an injured opossum while walking her dog, she knew immediately she had to help it. After spending time looking for resources in metro Atlanta online, Lavaux stumbled across recommendations for Lucky’s Place.

“I called her and she answered right away, giving me advice on what to do.” said Lavaux. “I drove it out to her and she was wonderful the entire time, when I got there I was hysterically crying because I was so overwhelmed. She hugged me and told me ‘It’s okay. I’m the perfect person to bring it to. This is my specialty’.”

Wilcox recalled another time where Lucky’s Place swiftly and successfully helped a friend and possum in need. A friend who knew of Wilcox and her work called because they thought their dog killed a possum. Shortly after, the friends discovered the animal was still alive and brought it to Jackie.

“The opossum was fine, other than just minor injuries and being scared from the dog,” said Wilcox. “But she had a pouch full of babies. So we helped her raise all her babies and she was released. I’d say that was pretty successful.”

Currently, Wilcox runs her passion project from the basement of her home but hopes to have a separate and larger space in the future for her wildlife friends. She also desires to train more people in wildlife rehabilitation in order to do more.

“It’s not glamorous work,” said Wilcox. ”But it’s rewarding, at the end of the day.”

ExploreMeet more Everyday Heroes from the AJC and our news partners

HOW TO HELP

For more information about Lucky’s Place-Where Wild Lives Matter, visit their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/LuckyBelle2021/


WE’RE STRONGER TOGETHER: A SPECIAL PROJECT

This place we call home is filled with ordinary people who accomplish extraordinary feats. Their selfless acts make this region so special – and they bring out the best in all of us. With the holidays upon us, we wanted to share their inspiring stories, celebrate their accomplishments, and offer ways that you can help.

Just as the 55 people we’re profiling can’t do it alone, nor can we. That’s why we worked closely with our partners to bring you this collection of uplifting stories.

We hope they leave you feeling inspired and ready to tackle the busy new year that lies ahead. We hope they make you feel more connected to your community or to your neighbors.

And maybe, just maybe, they will motivate you to come up with your own small way to make a big difference in the lives of others.

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