Two years after a local layoff, Sterling resident Moreen Hein found another way to work.
The 34-year-old was an accountant until January 2001, when the Dulles office of America Online Inc. downsized, leaving her without a job. Five months earlier, she had married Michael, a computer programming consultant, and moved with him from Oakton into a Sterling Park home that needed rehabilitation. They agreed she would take the next year off to work on the house, get used to the area and figure out her next career step.
"I had enough of corporate America, and I wanted to do something different," Hein said. "Giving back to my community was my way to do that."
In fall 2002, Hein decided to volunteer after stopping off at the Park View Recycling Center several times to drop off newspapers, boxes and other recyclable items she collected from her repair work that included yard work on a 1.5-acre lot at their home. She offered to volunteer at the recycling center and shortly thereafter joined Sterling Foundation, Inc., a non-profit organization that helps manage the center. Located at Park View High School, it maintains and landscapes Sterling Boulevard.
HEIN SEARCHED the county government's Web site for other volunteer work and decided to contact the county Area Agency on Aging to deliver meals and the American Red Cross to volunteer at blood drives. "I sort of did it all at once," she said.
Hein delivers the meals every Monday in Cascades and Thursday in Leesburg. "I had the time, and I knew I could help these people," she said. "It's nice to be able to go in as part of an organization and deliver a hot meal to someone who needs it. They're very appreciative, and it makes me feel good about what I'm doing."
At the same time, Hein likes being "out and about and learning about the community and all the different things that are available to community members."
As for the foundation, Hein volunteers at the recycling center one to two times a week and chairs the sponsorship committee for the Sterling Fest, an annual festival the foundation hosts with the Sterling Playmakers and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Services. She plans to run for the board of directors, hoping to raise more awareness of the foundation's work. "We live here. It's important to keep our area clean," she said. "To me, the appearance of a community can dictate how people feel about their community."
So why did Hein choose to volunteer? She said she had lost her mother Marie McVeigh of New York in 1996 and her brother Christopher, also of New York, in 1999 from leukemia just before his 35th birthday. Hein was born in Brooklyn and raised in Somers, N.Y. with Christopher and three other siblings.
"There was something bigger I needed to do. I wanted to do something for my community, to give something back," Hein said. "Life is too short."
HEIN'S EXTENDED family provided blood and platelets for Christopher, assistance that did not require him to receive the products from a blood bank. "I know it was an outlet for me to be able to help them [the Red Cross]," Hein said.
"I have a very supportive husband who allows me to do what I do," Hein said. "I wanted to find something to do that means something to me, and to give back. ... I very much want to continue to do my volunteer work."
Hein calls herself a "community activist" and encourages others to volunteer. "If you can spare an hour once a week, you're giving back to the community. You feel good about it. It doesn't have to be painful. It doesn't have to be a task," she said. "It's important to be involved where you live and to understand the community around you."
STERLING PARK resident Edwin "Ed" Linek, also a volunteer, was "very pleased" when he found out Hein became a volunteer after he found out she was new in the area.
"It's a pleasure to see someone like that step right in and get involved like that ... rather than sitting back and waiting for years to do something," said Linek, board member for the Sterling Foundation and a member of the Sterling Fest Committee. "She's a good example of what a volunteer is. She would be an asset to any organization because of her energy and her desire to help. You don't find many like her."
"She makes a great volunteer because she puts all of her heart, soul, time and effort into whatever she's doing," said Sky Dantinne, manager of the Sterling Community Center and a member of the Sterling Foundation, along with being chairman of the Sterling Fest Committee. "She's brought a new energy to the Foundation. ... I'm impressed by the amount of time she's put into it as a volunteer."