CAMP POINT, Ill. -- Pat Heinecke's first few months as director of the Community for Christ Assistance Center in Camp Point have been chaotic.
While counseling a woman in need of services recently, Heinecke had to step away briefly to pose for a photo with a few Lions Club representatives who were dropping off a donation, while simultaneously fielding questions from volunteers. The center has a thrift store, food pantry and offers emergency rent and utility assistance. Heinecke -- a retired school administer -- oversees all of it.
Inspired by her third-grade teacher, Mrs. Laws, Heinecke decided early on that she wanted to be a teacher. She attended Illinois State University, majoring in middle level education.
"I like junior high education because that's where they can start to think on their own," she said. "I love watching the light bulb come on."
Heinecke, 66, spent 27 years working in the Central School District. She taught fourth and fifth grades for a spell, but found her true passion was in administration, where she affected a larger number of students. She went on to work as principal of the junior high.
In 2006, she was approached to help implement the new "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" curriculum in Adams County schools. Founded with George Meyer, who Heinecke refers to as "the idea man," the "7 Habits" is now taught in 24 of the county's 32 schools.
"I wish I would have known these things when I started in the '70s," she said. In the decade since it began, schools have seen growth in academic attendance and performance, while disciplinary issues have dropped simultaneously.
Her efforts as a member of the Adams County Academic Success Initiative's Steering Committee -- the organization that promotes the "7 Habits" in schools -- helped Heinecke to further expand her reach and to impact even more students. Heinecke wrote most of the grants for the initiative, and two years ago, she and Meyer also helped resurrect the Quincy Conference -- which has seen about 2,000 educators attend each year.
Finding the Community for Christ Assistance Center
For almost a decade, Heinecke would participate in the annual school fair at the Community for Christ Assistance Center. When she retired, volunteering there was a natural progression.
"I volunteered every once in awhile, but I never thought about being the director," she said. "When the past director retired, I put my name in the hat, just to try something different."
Her first day at the new job was Nov. 11.
"It's been chaotic, a real learning experience," she said. "The longer I'm here, the greater the need I see."
The first meeting for what would become the Community for Christ Assistance Center was held on March 30, 2004. Thirteen churches from Camp Point and the surrounding areas were represented. By September, by-laws for the new center had been presented, and on Nov. 1, 2004, the center opened its doors at its first location, a small, 600-square-foot building. Subsequent moves helped the center to gradually grow into the 6,600-square-foot building it is in today.
The number of churches supporting the center has also risen to 23, and it has been operating debt-free since 2009.
"I always knew there was a need for it, but when you speak with these individuals, it really becomes personalized," Heinecke said.
The center is open three days each week, and food baskets are distributed to 20 to 25 families each day. The center is staffed entirely by a revolving group of volunteers from each of the 23 churches.
"We'll keep improving and trying to add more programs. I would like to be able to offer counseling," Heinecke said. "Retiring and relaxing is not in my nature."
Staff Writer Matt Dutton will bring you a story detailing the life of a local resident each Monday.