For more than 25 years, Carol Heck has advocated for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and promoted The MENTOR Network’s mission and vision.
“Carol has played a huge part in integrating the folks we support into all aspects of the community,” said Stephanie Kulin, former area director at REM West Virginia and Carol’s nominator. “From the day she started to the present, I have never heard this lady say ‘we can’t,’ it’s always been ‘let’s make it happen.’”
Carol joined REM West Virginia in 1991 as a direct support professional serving individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She later became a program coordinator, then program director. In the late 90s, she stepped down from her management role for more than two years so she could continue to care for twin sisters she supported. She did it again 14 years later.
Direct care has always been her focus and passion. Camping, the theater, ball games and overnight trips are only a few of the many activities Carol has done with the people she supports, many of whom she has served for decades. She has helped them find jobs and volunteer opportunities too.
“That is my desire,” said Carol. “I want to give them things other people won’t give them.”
Carol’s generosity is also felt by many community groups and local charities, such as the Make a Wish Foundation and Special Olympics. When the waiver program started in the Follansbee area and REM began looking for homes for people moving out of institutions,Carol took advantage of those community contacts to help find and open homes. She set up utilities, painted and furnished them—sometimes in under a few weeks. She stood up at churches, town meetings and other public spaces to explain to communities how everyone benefits when they welcome these new residents into their community.
“Carol is a true leader,” added Stephanie. “She leads by example.”