Episode 31: Ending Hunger and Homelessness with April Heiple

April Heiple: Director of Food and Shelter Norman

Let’s meet our Dreamer and Doer! April Heiple is the Executive Director of Food and Shelter, Norman, Oklahoma’s soup kitchen and homeless services center. Throughout her 19 years in human services, April has developed a great passion for helping people overcome struggles related to poverty and victimization. 

April graduated from the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in 2002 with a bachelor of science in Psychology. April moved to Norman for graduate school in 2002 and completed a Master of Human Relations in 2005 and subsequently a Master of Public Administration in 2010 both from the University of Oklahoma. 

April has worked with many different state and local organizations throughout the state of Oklahoma. She traveled the state in 2007 interviewing hundreds of victims of crime and authored a state-wide assessment of victims services resulting in better, more research based services in Oklahoma. She was appointed by Governor Brad Henry to serve on the state task force to end sexual violence and has been honored by multiple organizations for her activism and leadership. 

She is a 2012 graduate of Leadership Norman and in the same year was honored by her alma mater as Distinguished Alumni. She is very proud to be an active member of the Cleveland County Continuum of Care; a group working collaboratively to end homelessness in Norman.    

April and her husband Greg have 4 amazing children; Kaetlyn, Zach, Xander and Mia. Her favorite color is yellow.

April considers herself more of a natural doer. She likes to dream, but often she find herself with 5-6 projects going at once!

From Feeling Stuck to Helping Others

Growing up, April’s parents were poor and her dad had an addiction issue. There were many challenging moments growing up, and her family often got kicked out of their house. Her grandparents helped out during her challenges and loved her very much. They taught her how to stick together as a family to survive.

April felt stuck many times while she was growing up. However, she found school to be an outlet away from the chaos and helped her find a path away from poverty. She invested in herself at school and looked for ways to improve and get better. April’s advice to anyone who feels stuck in their situation is to invest in a channel to help you get out of the feeling of being stuck. 

Finding a Pathway

In school, April had a teacher who guided her into many different types of community service. This opened April to the idea of helping others who were in similar situations as she was. She went to college with the intent to help others.

April found a passion to help others who were homeless when she saw a homeless man who looked like her dad. She realized that all homeless people were someone’s mom or sister or family member. Shortly after, April was offered a job to help work with the homeless, and she graciously accepted. Now she gets paid to love others each day!

April’s job is not easy; her heart is on the line each day. What keeps her going is watching lives transform when they are given the necessary resources to succeed.

Breaking the Stigma

How does homelessness happen? Oftentimes, many people who end up homeless don’t choose that lifestyle. It can begin from trauma or poverty. When people are given the opportunity to change their lives, they will work to take it. However, hopelessness is really what can cripple people. Many homeless people don’t believe they can change their lives for the better. April encourages us to help others believe in themselves and build hope so they can succeed. 

Middle School Advice

Believe in yourself! Even if you feel stuck in your situation, know you are capable to go forward and do good.

Help out at Food and Shelter

If you are looking for a way to get involved at Food and Shelter, visit their website to see volunteer options or donation options! http://www.foodandshelterinc.org/get-involved#volunteer

Key Takeaways

  • If you feel stuck, invest in a channel that will help you get out of your current situation.
  • Believe in yourself! You are capable of moving forward.
  • Building hope in others is the biggest way to make a difference in the lives of others.

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