Asheboro, NC - The North Carolina Zoo Society and the Randolph Friends of the Zoo announce grants totaling more than $7,500 to N.C. Zoo employees with innovative ideas for supporting the zoo's conservation and education missions. The RFOZ Grant Fund Committee selected seven recipients for full funding:

Nell Allen, rare plant curator, was awarded $421 to attend the Longleaf 101 course in Southern Pines, NC.

A grant of $1,300 went to Zoo Education Programs Coordinator Steve Gerkin to attend the Educator of Excellence Tropical Ecology Institute through the N.C. Museum of Natural Science, Belize.

A grant of $2,000 was awarded to zookeeper Aaron Jesue, keeper resource correspondent with the UNITE Project in Uganda.

Zookeeper Dana Kennedy received $1,810 to attend Earth Expedition: Kenya--Wildlife and People in Integrated Landscapes.

A grant of $1,000 will send zookeeper Rebecca Kloepfer to the Animal Behavior Management Alliance Conference in Toronto.

Arbor Supervisor Robert McCrory received $875 to attend the International Society of Arboriculture Mid Atlantic Conference and Trade Show in Fredericksburg, Va.

Zookeeper Melissa Vindigni was awarded $541 for equipment purchase that will assist in research for zoo penguin and puffin exhibits.

The Randolph Friends of the Zoo and the Zoo Society established the Employee Grants Fund in 2000. Grant funds are generated from a small percentage of the Society's annual Zoo To Do auction, dinner and dance event.

RFOZ is a volunteer organization that supports the fundraising efforts of the N.C. Zoo Society.

The North Carolina Zoological Society is a private, non-profit organization that supports the North Carolina Zoo and its conservation and education initiatives. The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, John E. Skvarla, III, secretary; Pat McCrory, governor.