WNC Wilderness Safety Fund

Our Mission

To collect and distribute donations to enhance funding for SAR operations in Haywood County. The scope and geography may be expanded in the future.

Our History

Founded in 2020, the WNC Wilderness Safety Fund was developed out of the need to support Wilderness Search and Rescue efforts in WNC, and Haywood County in particular.

Meet Our Board

Bill Zimmerman, President

Bill is an outdoor enthusiast enjoying hiking, biking, and kayaking. He’s climbed Mt. Shasta, Mt. Whitney and the Grand Teton and has trained with NOLS in Alaska and the Himalayas concentrating on risk management and safe wilderness travel. Bill joined the Haywood SAR team in 2016. Before retirement Bill managed global technical teams for AT&T and a couple of Silicon Valley startups. 

Dean Coward, Treasurer/Secretary

Dean is a native and life-long resident of Western North Carolina.  He has been a CPA for 41 years. While managing his own public practice for 32 years, he has worked with many non-profits.  He is currently the Financial Director for the NC State Firefighters’ Association and has been a volunteer firefighter since 1981, serving as Assistant Fire Chief for 22 years in Jackson County.  He has certifications as a Fire Officer, Fire Instructor, and various Rescue Technician specialties.  A lifetime of outdoor activities in the mountains and participation in several searches and mountain rescues while in the fire service led him to join the Haywood Search & Rescue team in 2017.

Nancy East, Advisor/Educator

Nancy is a retired small animal veterinarian who lives in Waynesville with her husband and three teenagers.  She is a member of the Haywood County Search and Rescue Team and spends much of her free time hiking and backpacking extensively.  Nancy also works closely with regional nonprofits, to help initiate and fund preventative search and rescue programs to keep hikers “safe and found.” 

Visit her site: Hope and Feather Travels.

Justin S. Padgett, Advisor

Justin is the Executive Director of Landmark Learning, a school dedicated to the education of remote medical and rescue skills. Justin is a paramedic and NCOEMS instructor serving WNC since 1993.  He is also a lead instructor, instructor trainer and curriculum board member for the American Canoe Association, NOLS Wilderness Medicine, and Starfish Aquatics Lifeguarding. Justin has a long history in mountaineering, caving and whitewater paddling.

Kevin Fitzgerald, Advisor

Kevin is a Retired National Park Ranger with 35 years of service in 2013. Duty stations included the Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains NP (twice), Everglades National Park, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal NHP, Cape Cod National Seashore, Washington, DC headquarters and the Intermountain Regional Office in Denver, CO.  Extensive experience in land, water and air search and rescue.  Resident of Haywood County since 2014.

Contact Us

PO BOX 443
Balsam, NC 28707
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