New foundation director prepared for job

February 15, 1999

Joyce HeptnerBy Andrea Brown-Hurley / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

Don't be surprised by the plastic patio chairs in Joyce Heptner's office.

The former director of the Maryland Theatre began work as deputy executive director of the Community Foundation of Washington County on Jan. 18.

She is the Foundation's first full-time employee, and she's going to make sure the fledgling organization's funds are funneled where they are really needed.

"I see the Community Foundation as being able to have a really strong impact on the community," said Heptner, 47.

The purpose of the Foundation is to establish endowments to provide avenues of charitable giving so funds can live on in perpetuity, she said. The income from these funds can then be filtered back into the community.


Heptner said once an assessment committee establishes needs within certain populations, a grants allocation committee can review applications, and allocate funds based on the Community Foundation's guidelines.

Through this method, funds will be targeted in a manner Heptner said will have a "strong, positive impact on that population."

Donors can also designate funds to specific areas, she said.

Heptner said her personal goal is for the Community Foundation to reach the $5 million mark in five years.

She's done it before.

Heptner returns to Hagerstown after a five-and-a-half year stint in Naples, Fla., where she coordinated a capital campaign to build a new theatre.

Her group raised $5.6 million.

Heptner said capital campaign fund-raising is "like trial by fire," and the "intense" experience furthered her knowledge and ability to motivate volunteers, and gave her a "very broad brush stroke of philanthropy."

The experience will benefit her current position with the Community Foundation, she said.

Heptner's resume brims with such credentials.

She has served as president of the Washington County Arts Council, vice president of the board of directors of the Washington County Department of Social Services, and director of student activities at Hagerstown Community College.

"I have a real soft spot on my heart for the nonprofits of the world," Heptner said.

The Maryland Theatre was the spark that ignited her passion for charitable work.

In the late 1970s, "I learned how to run the popcorn machine," she said. A returning non-traditional student, Heptner said she continued to work part-time at the theater while going to school.

The financial aid she received from HCC enabled Heptner to complete her education within a timeframe she said she deemed necessary to be successful.

"I give that community college a lot of credit for the success in my life," Heptner said.

After completing HCC's two-year program, and graduating from Frostburg State University's newly opened Hagerstown campus, Heptner went to work for the Maryland Theatre full-time.

Following in the footsteps of her mentor, Mike Harsh, Heptner one day assumed the position of executive director.

"I worked my way up from the bottom," she said. "I always sort of thought of myself as the woman behind the scenes."

Heptner said she will never be wealthy doing the kind of work she does, but "knowing you've made a positive difference" makes all the hard work worthwhile.

She recalled the glow in the eyes of the first little ballerina to take the stage at the Maryland Theatre, the evolution of a shy 13-year-old girl into a gregarious, college-bound theatre major, and the stuttering student who "floated off the stage" after giving a flawless speech.

"That's still one of the greatest things that's ever happened to me," Heptner said.

Heptner is pursuing a master's degree in business administration at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg, Md. She also volunteers for the Arts Council's grants allocation committee.

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