From the Board of Directors:
For the past three years, Sarah Heffner, Executive Director, and Steve Diehl, Director of Advancement, have headed up a team of staff and volunteers to carry out the mission of the center to “educate, inspire, and witness to the church and community by collecting, preserving, and sharing the Anabaptist/Mennonite story.” Acting on the recommendation of both Sarah and Steve, the Board of Directors at its May meeting voted unanimously to name Diehl as Executive Director and Heffner as Program Director.
Sarah has served effectively as Executive Director for 16 years, during which time the center has added to its holdings and provided a place to inform the present and the future by engaging with the past. She has built a robust slate of programs, workshops, events, and bus trips. Of particular note are the hands-on traditional arts and food workshops. In addition to overseeing all programming, she will recruit and manage volunteers and write grants.
Sarah has experience and interests in horticulture, sustainable agriculture and the creative arts. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Bluffton University and studied horticulture at Temple University. Prior to her employment at the Heritage Center, she worked for Rodale Institute, Kutztown, in the horticulture department.
Steve joined the staff three years ago as the center’s first full-time Director of Advancement. A native son, he has returned to his roots. A graduate of Souderton Area High School, Steve earned a B.A. in Education and an M.A. in Theology from Wheaton College (IL.) He honed his teaching, leadership, and fundraising skills in a variety of settings. Steve has helped strengthen the financial base of the center and has built an expanding network of support in many creative ways. He is uniquely qualified in experience and vision to move into a new role as Executive Director as the organization begins living into its recently adopted Strategic Plan.
The Heritage Center is, at heart, a community. It is a community that provides a unique lens on the human experience. It is the experience of a particular people in a particular place and time. However, I am convinced we can be a place of belonging for all people, not just, as I am fond of saying “our usual suspects.”
The stories may be particular, but the message we have is universal. As I have gone out into the community, I have met so many people that either know, or just have a general sense, that our work is important. Even if they’ve not taken part in a Heritage Center event lately, somehow just knowing we are here is a comfort. How many other communities have such a well-appointed place full of carefully stewarded treasures? And location, location, location–twelve beautiful acres on Route 113!
In a recent series of planning meetings, a diverse group of local leaders counseled us to:
-Clarify our message and make it louder and more pervasive
-Go out where people are
-Embrace the whole community
-Perfect the visitor experience
Now we are seeking to define our audiences. What do they look like in terms of age, race, gender, creed, socioeconomic class, online behavior, recreational interests, academic interests, and philanthropic behavior? What new audiences are we best equipped to serve, and in what ways can we serve them? What organizations provide the richest opportunities for collaboration and synergy? Our new vision statement says, “We are a vibrant center of learning rooted in the Anabaptist/Mennonite faith.” What message and experiences can we bring to the “whole community?” We may be surprised by what they bring to us.
Many thanks to Sarah for her excellent work and initiative in this transition. I also want to thank the board for their vision, leadership, wisdom, and support.
As we embark on this journey with a fresh strategic plan in hand, we welcome your ideas, introductions, and help.