One phone made all the difference for Burrell

Published 8:11 pm Sunday, December 3, 2017

It all began with a telephone call from then-United Way of West Central Mississippi executive director Barbara Tolliver.

Heidi Burrell, United Way’s director of resource development remembers it well.

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“She told me, ‘Heidi, we need help with the campaign.’ I came into help with that, and from there, took the position full time and I’ve been here four years now.”

At the time Burrell got the call, she had been laid off from her position with Ameristar Casino.

“I got a nice package, and I had planned to spend a year at home playing,” Burrell said.

But after the call things changed. And ironically, working with United Way was not something new for Burrell.

“I worked at Ameristar for 13 years, and I was the campaign coordinator and I worked on all their different volunteer projects and helped coordinate Day of Caring,” Burrell said. “I got on board and chaired the community investment committee, was on the board and got volunteer of the year, so I was very much into it on both sides of United Way.

“I knew the United Way culture. I knew what the goals were,” she said. “I’d been to visit all the agencies did all the volunteer projects outside the Day of Caring, so I knew the agencies, knew the mission, was passionate about it, was committed.”

From her experience working on both sides of the United Way campaigns, Burrell said, she knew how important the campaign funds are to each of the agencies, “so I had that balance.”

“I came in as, ‘OK, I’ll help you get through this campaign.’ I wasn’t sure what I was biting off, and wasn’t sure if I could step into those shoes,” she said.

As resource development coordinator, Burrell helps coordinate United Way’s annual giving campaign, which runs in the fall of each year. She coordinates the effort with the organization’s community investment team, which allocates the funds and has focus meetings throughout the year.

“And I work closely with the agencies on their applications for annual funding, and all the nonprofits for community investment grants,” Burrell said.

She arranges meetings for the campaigns, leaves her office to visit and talk to the individual contributors, visits the agencies throughout the year with the volunteers and has quarterly focus round table meetings on United Way’s four focus areas — health, education, financial stability and support services.

“At that roundtable we bring all the people together and try to address the needs. We know its money and we all need the money, but there’s also other needs out there, volunteers, mentors and transportation. That’s the stuff we identify when we go to those focus meetings,” she said.

She also helps recruit volunteers.

It’s a schedule that keeps her busy, but she said she doesn’t mind the pace.

“When you have a passion for something — the mission here, the agencies getting to work in the community,” Burrell said. “In this job, I get to go to Anderson Tully and talk to the guys in the mill and you see those logs going around. You get to see behind the scenes; Eaton/Cooper, seeing them make pole lights and these tiny LEDs, you get to touch not just that CEO, you get to touch the individual. It’s the passion,” Burrell said.

“You have to be committed to the mission and you have to be committed to the community, and look at what we do and the children we touch, and when you see the families in shelter, and you see a senior that gets to go to the day care program, you know you’re touching a life. To me, it’s God’s work. Jesus said, ‘Love ye one another, and love each other.’”

Outside of United Way, Burrell is Vicksburg Kiwanis board president and is involved with the Leadership Vicksburg Advisory Board.

“Ryan Lee recommended me (for Kiwanis) soon after I went to work for United Way,” she said.

“The next thing you know, you want to get on the board, and make your way up. What I love about Vicksburg Kiwanis is they’re dedicated to children and service projects it’s just like it marries up to my job.”

Her work with Leadership Vicksburg involves coordinating monthly meetings and working with other program alumni and the Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce staff to coordinate guidance and help new participants grow as leaders.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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