Black Pine executive leaving longtime post

January 3, 2019

Lori Gagen first set foot onto Black Pine Animal Sanctuary more than 25 years ago. Back then, it was still Karen Hoag’s farm, which was just beginning to house exotic animals.

A cat lover, Gagen always owned domestic cats, but the opportunity to be around exotic animals drew her in. As a friend, she wanted to lend her skills to the Hoags’ fledgling mom-and-pop organization.

After 11 years of volunteering and 13 years as executive director of the animal sanctuary in Albion, Gagen announced to the staff on New Year’s Eve she will be stepping down.

“I hope that all of the work under my leadership that we’ve done in the past decade has put them into a position to succeed despite any challenges that may arise,” Gagen said. “That’s been my goal as director, to make Black Pine very sustainable, and not to have it rely on anyone’s individual shoulders.”

As a volunteer with a background in business administration and computer technology, Gagen helped establish a volunteer program, wrote training manuals and launched the sanctuary’s first website.

Beginning her tenure as executive director in 2006, Gagen helped Black Pine relocate and build an all-new facility for its animals.

Significant capital improvements under her leadership also include paving projects, a new septic system and an increase in the number of paid staffers from two to seven.

When the sanctuary was in need, she even helped with direct animal care.

Looking back on her work, Gagen is most proud of the standards Black Pine has developed as a nonprofit organization, which she said has influenced the ability to improve animal care.

“I’m very proud of the standards that we have met as a nonprofit charity, as far as transparency and honoring everyone’s investment with honesty and investing it wisely,” Gagen said.

On Jan. 21, Gagen will become marketing and coordination communicator for the Noble County Economic Development Corp.

She will be based in Albion, where she lives, and continue to do much of the same work she was doing at Black Pine with other businesses and nonprofits in Noble County.

“I’m hoping to bring some of what I’ve implemented here that’s made Black Pine successful and help others do the same with their organizations,” Gagen said.

Barb Smith, board president of Black Pine, said the new director will have big shoes to fill.

“Of course we’re going to miss (Gagen), but she’s going to still be there and still going to be involved with Black Pine,” Smith said.

“This is an opportunity that doesn’t come up very often for jobs like that, and she will be great. We wish her nothing but good wishes and thank her for what she’s done for the last 13 years.”

Smith said the position will be posted within the next week.

All applicants will be considered, whether from inside or outside of Black Pine.

As for Gagen, her plan is to watch Black Pine continue to grow.

“I’m literally not going very far, and I fully intend on continuing to be a member of the public that supports Black Pine and to also be a volunteer,” Gagen said.


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