By Lanier Laney
When Heidi Owen and her son visited Harbor Island for the first time three years ago, she immediately fell in love with the area. She had no idea her life’s work would bring her and Daniel, age 10, back within just a few years.
Says Heidi, “My son and I had been to Edisto many times, and he and I both talked about leaving the mountains and moving to Beaufort.”
The finger of fate pointed their way when Beverley Porter, the outgoing director of FRIENDS of Caroline Hospice, put together a search committee to find her replacement. Heidi was one of 47 people who applied for the job.
“I met Beverley years ago,” said Heidi, “and I was intrigued by the ‘unique’ approach her hospice had to truly providing free care.”
Beverly created giant shoes to fill though, having built the organization into what it is today, but Heidi certainly had the training having first gotten a B.A. in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, followed by an MBA in healthcare management at Gardner-Webb University. She also became a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) and a Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS) — all important skills she will need as head of one of Beaufort’s largest charity organizations. But Heidi also brings more to the table — experience and a proven track record.
Says Heidi, “As far as my 18-year career with Hospice of Rutherford County (N.C.), I conducted three capital campaigns raising over $5 million, built a 12 bed and an additional six bed hospice patient unit, ran two Resale Shops, built a conference center, and then began operation in an adjoining county.”
She also was instrumental in starting an extensive grief counseling program, and a nationally recognized children’s bereavement program and most recently secured a $100K grant to expand those programs.
Heidi explains, “But in the small community from which I came, there was no more room for expansion, so it was time for another challenge in a beautiful area. I am now ready for my second career with Friends of Caroline and am looking forward to hopefully another two decades.” She began her new job on June 4.
Heidi was born and raised near Brevard and Hendersonville, N.C. She was led to hospice work by accident.
“A friend was served by an organization in North Carolina at the end of her life, and I decided then that I wanted to be a part of that special kind of caring,” she said.
Heidi has never married, and says, “I’m not opposed to it. I just haven’t found the right guy quite yet.” But she knew she wanted to raise a child so she adopted her son as an 8-month-old from an orphanage in Russia.
Says Heidi, “My son and I kayak, bicycle and spend most free days out on a dock or shore cast netting and fishing. We are both outside people and Daniel loves the activities of the area.”
As far as how she intends to guide Friends of Caroline Hospice into the future, Heidi says, “Beverley Porter and the board, staff and volunteers have done such tremendous work over the past 18 years. I feel confident that with Beverley’s history and legacy and the board’s support, we can continue that momentum and enable Friends of Caroline to become a nationally recognized model for end of life care as we serve even more people in Beaufort County in the future.”
“Everyone I have met since starting has been absolutely wonderful,” she said. “I am confident that I will enjoy my new life in my newly found ‘home,’ and look forward to meeting many more Beaufortonians who will also become friends and ‘Friends’ of Caroline Hospice.”
Heidi, all of us welcome you to Beaufort.