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Alaqua Animal Refuge welcomes new executive director as nonprofit expands

Special to the Destin Log/USA TODAY NETWORK

FREEPORT — Alaqua Animal Refuge has announced and welcomed Jeff Jacob as its new executive director, effective immediately.

Jacob will be responsible for helping to lead the organization during an unprecedented growth period as Alaqua relocates to its permanent home, a multimillion-dollar facility with expanded programs and services, according to a press release from the nonprofit group.

"Jacob was selected for this critical role from a nationwide search that garnered more than 50 applicants. A pivotal year for Alaqua, Jacob’s hire demonstrates the nonprofit’s strong desire to partner with an individual whose passion and beliefs align with Alaqua’s mission and vision, and who can bring the necessary background and experience to oversee and manage the important day-to-day work of the refuge while at the same time growing programs, expanding Alaqua’s brand and broadening horizons," the release said.

By the way:Alaqua Animal Refuge featured on Hallmark Channel

Jeff Jacob

Alaqua Founder Laurie Hood will continue in her role as president to set and drive the vision for the refuge while strengthening and expanding national partnerships and leadership roles with organizations such as Animal Welfare Action, the Humane Society of the United States, Florida Wildlife Federation and the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center.

She will continue to lead Alaqua’s advocacy efforts, rescue operations, coordination with governmental agencies in prosecuting animal cruelty offenders and supporting their efforts in the judicial system.

Alaqua Founder Laurie Hood will continue in her role as president to set and drive the vision for the Refuge while strengthening and expanding national partnerships and leadership roles with organizations such as Animal Welfare Action, the Humane Society of the United States, Florida Wildlife Federation, and the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center.

“We are beyond thrilled to have Jeff on board. He brings a fresh perspective, approach, and philosophy that will drive us closer to our vision. He has demonstrated both organizational and inspirational leadership, strategic thinking, fundraising success and is an overall animal advocate — all with an entrepreneurial spirit that fits our culture,” Hood said.

“We have a lot of work to do and we are growing quickly," Hood added. "Not only are we moving into a new facility that is 10 times the size of our current location, but we are also expanding our footprint into more community programs for healing and wildlife rehabilitation, among other things. As we developed our strategic plan and outlined our goals for 2021 and beyond, the writing was on the wall. Literally. It was apparent that we needed to restructure our organization and find someone that could come in at an executive level and help move us forward. And we found that person in Jeff."

Related: Alaqua keeps up fight for abused, neglected animals 

Jacob brings more than 25 years of nonprofit and operational experience to Alaqua, and has spent the majority of the past two decades advancing the interests of animals and people in healing environments. He believes that animals are one of the most unique and healing entities we have on this planet. 

Previously:Alaqua Animal Refuge in Freeport underwater after flooding from Hurricane Sally

“I started out in nonprofit animal welfare before transitioning to other nonprofit sectors, but all along I hoped and suspected that the right opportunity would present itself to circle back to our furry friends and combine my experiences for one organization," Jacob said.

"It was clear to me that Alaqua was doing amazing, purposeful work in saving animals, finding them new homes and providing sanctuary to them," he added. "I loved the fact that it was also a place focused on helping people. The more I talked with Laurie, the more it felt like a perfect fit. She inspired me.”