“Be an advocate for what’s important. Stretch yourself….” These are words Heidi Norwick would tell her younger self if she had the chance. A past winner of the Founder’s Award and current president of Alamance County’s United Way, Heidi has come into her own as an advocate in this community.
When her children were young and her husband’s company downsized, Heidi took a part-time coordinator position at the budding Women’s Resource Center. Flexible enough she could keep her family a priority, the job eventually became a full-time Executive Director’s position and opened the door to a career of service in Alamance County. Twenty-two years later, Heidi remembers with gratitude, “The Women’s Resource Center was life changing for me….I grew so much.”
She maintains close ties to the center, even now, and is especially excited about the upcoming Herb Festival. She loves that it lets her put her passion for gardening to good use, and she’s become a faithful volunteer, modeling her belief that you ought to “do what you love and share it with others!”
Heidi’s become so good at living that belief that Alamance Chamber President Mac Williams calls her “a thoughtful, caring, and committed leader serving Alamance County with distinction.” Joining the United Way as Director of Community Impact in 2012, she stepped into her current role two years later. Williams points out the “critical human services” Heidi manages, noting her efforts “to improve community conditions around education, health, and employment.”
Heidi attributes much of her personal and professional growth to other influential women. Hesitant to name names, lest she leave someone out, she says she’s drawn on the leadership of Jean Anderson and Linda Barron as well as the founders of the Women’s Resource Center: Becky Mock, “B” Holt, Tennala Gross, and Dr. Martha Smith-Trout. Calling these ladies “pioneers in our field,” Heidi heralds them as women dedicated to the community whose “passion [has been] inspiring.”
She also points to Alamance County’s Susan Osborne, Stacie Saunders, Tracey Grayzer, and Kathy Hykes. They, along with the founders mentioned above and the current United Way staff, are blazing a trail of empowerment Heidi feels privileged to walk.
When asked why she cares so much about Alamance County, she smiles. The community embraced Heidi and her family when they moved here, and she has a strong desire to help others sense that same connection. In fact, she believes we all have a responsibility to work toward that end.
Her role allows her to make connections every day, perhaps the most satisfying aspect of her job. A few weeks back, for example, Heidi watched an inmate hold his 10-month old daughter for the first time when he graduated from a GED program funded with grant money. She participated when Women United presented Leader in Me, a leadership-training initiative for students, with an anonymous gift for expansion into Haw River Elementary School.
Being the vehicle for connecting those who have a passion to do something with those who have the means is part of why Heidi gets up every morning. “I don’t think of it as a job,” she emphasizes, because the rewards of a life devoted to service return to her day after day. She insists she’s gained more than she’s given: “I feel very blessed in this opportunity.”
Heidi sees a glimmering horizon for Alamance County. The United Way’s new location allows more opportunity for support of Burlington’s downtown, and a shifting focus on collective impact for approaching local issues has her believing we’re entering a new season, a time when silos come down and everyone works together for the same goals.
The dream? Alamance County as a home where those who need mental healthcare get access to it, kids involved in youth violence find their way out, and those who feel they don’t have a voice discover it and the community they’re seeking. Heidi’s staking her future on the possibility of this dream becoming a reality, and she hopes you’ll join her in making it happen.
Julie Johnson is a local freelance writer who’s traveled the world but come home to her roots. Her global experience gives her a unique perspective when helping clients communicate in a 21st century marketplace. https://www.johnsonwriter.com/