Heidi Figel has been involved with the Community Service-Learning Institute since September of 1998, when she joined the Institute’s AmeriCorps program. During her time at the Institute, she quickly made the transition from volunteer participant to project leader. She has organized and led numerous service projects in and around the community, as well as in other parts of the United States. These projects invariably focus on underserved communities, usually in socially and economically depressed areas.
There are several ongoing projects that Heidi organizes and leads. Children’s Saturday is a program she organized in conjunction with St. Joseph’s foster home in Pittsburgh, PA. This is the second academic year that she has led this project, which involves taking 10-15 Slippery Rock University student volunteers to the foster home. While they are there, Heidi and the other volunteers play with the (on average) six children who reside at the foster home, and they also spend time helping to renovate and restore the facility.
Heidi generally holds the Children’s Saturday once a month during the academic year. She also does a similar activity in New Castle, Pennsylvania, with Lawrence County Family Center. Children’s Saturday in New Castle happens about twice each semester, and volunteers spend the entire day playing with the 20 children from underserved and economically needy communities. Children’s Saturday is a very popular volunteer activity and Heidi often cannot take all of the students who want to volunteer – the sign up sheets are filled a long time in advance, and many students repeat this volunteer experience.
Braddock Mini-Care Breaks are another ongoing project for which Heidi has taken responsibility. These occur semi-annually (once each academic semester), and take Slippery Rock University student volunteers to different communities in the Braddock and North Braddock areas for a weekend-long service project. These communities are extremely economically depressed. To coordinate the projects, Heidi works with local human service agencies on various community improvement projects. Some of the Braddock Mini-Care Breaks have worked with the Braddock Carnegie Library and Community Center, where volunteers have done such things as book cataloging, reading to children, building shelves, building restoration, shoveling snow and painting. Other Mini-Care Breaks have teamed up with the North Braddock Fire Department to put up smoke detectors in resident homes.
Additionally, Heidi is the Site Leader for the Institute’s Care Break 2000, occurring during the University’s spring break. For the second year in a row, Heidi will lead a group of college students to Florida City, Florida, where they will partner with the AmeriCorps program, Centrol Campesino, to do community development and tutor in an after-school literacy program.