Local 'do-gooder' nominated for award
By SHEA STASKOWSKI
A Mississippi State staff member has been chosen as one of 18 finalists for the Foundation for the Mid South's Do-Gooders Award from a pool of more than 600 nominees.
The Mid South Do-Gooders is an online campaign encouraging the public to vote for individuals and non-profits for making a difference in their communities.
MSU Service Learning Coordinator April Heiselt has been selected as one of the finalist for the award because of her work with Day One, Service DAWGS, St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Habitat for Humanity.
"I am thankful and amazed at the opportunity I have to be chosen as a representative of all of the do-gooders in Mississippi," Heiselt said. "Everywhere we look in our community we can find people who are reaching out and lifting others up in their own unique way. I am extremely grateful to be listed among this outstanding group of individuals."
Day One is a leadership organization for incoming college freshman who partner with over 75 non-prfit agencies in the community, of which Heiselt was an integral role in its establishment.
Heiselt developed course work that joined freshmen with those agencies to initiate projects in the community, including the creation of an afterschool program for children in a local housing project and the revitalization of a neglected park.
Building on her love of community service, Heiselt founded the Service DAWGS organization in which hundreds of college students, faculty and staff kick off the new school year by storming the streets of Starkville to volunteer in any capacity needed from picking up trash to organizing books in the public library.
But perhaps most notable is Heiselt's work with the first and second Maroon Edition Habitat for Humanity homes. Shortly after coming to MSU, Heiselt had the opportunity to meet Habitat Director Freddie Raspberry and Office Manager Peggy Branch, whose story of service inspired her to join their efforts.
"They helped me to see that building a house is not like building a home. I wanted to be an advocate for Habitat for the way it brings communities together and for the wonderful people who live in Habitat homes," Heiselt said. "I've seen the service that is given in volunteer work through Habitat, I've had meals cooked for me by our partners and I've felt the community that is built when we build a Habitat home in our community."
With the help of the Habitat team and Heiselt, more than 700 MSU students, faculty and staff have logged hundreds of hours building homes for those in need.
"I've also witnessed how the Maroon Edition Habitat home has changed the lives of MSU students. We are now in our second year of building a Maroon Edition home and it is a thrill to work with such an outstanding organization," Heiselt said.
As a Do-Gooder Award finalist, Heiselt has the opportunity to nominate an organization who will benefit by receiving up to $50,000 in grant funds from Mid South should Heiselt earn the most number of votes by Oct. 26.
Heiselt has chosen Habitat for Humanity as her charity of choice.
"My hope is that these funds will be the gateway to help Habitat gain a good foundation both for now and in the future. And, ideally, this will bring about the opportunity to build our 3rd MSU Maroon Edition Habitat House," Heiselt said. "I can truly say that without the support of the MSU president and provost, the College of Education, the Counseling and Educational Psychology Department, all of the Starkville community members and MSU faculty, staff and students who worked with me, I would not have received this recognition. I offer my sincere gratitude to all of you who have impacted my life and hope that we can come together as a community to win this award for Habitat."
Heiselt is relying on the community's support to help Habitat compete for the grant.
Voting is already under way, and the community is encouraged to visit the Foundation for the Mid South's website at http://www.fndmidsouth.ogr/do-gooders  and vote often until the deadline, which is Oct. 26 at 5 p.m. Grant winners will be announced the week of Nov. 15.