For Heather McNally '85 helping others has never been a penance or duty, it has been a way of life. Starting as a Bucknell freshman, Heather spent many hours mentoring a young Lewisburg girl through Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
Upon graduation Heather moved into Anchor House, a home for runaway teens in Trenton, New Jersey. While the hours were long and the pay little, she spent two years there as a counselor and case manager. Then she moved on to another Trenton social service position at the Family Growth Program. There she counseled more than ten families with a history of domestic violence. Visiting these violent and often resentful family members was often a dangerous responsibility. In addition to meeting with the families individually, she facilitated a therapy group for teens, and trained colleagues in play-therapy techniques.
Heather took a break from the dangers of inner-city Trenton to work for two years with the Delaware Valley United Way. While there she supervised the local help line, coordinated the giving programs, and directed the volunteers. But her drive to help the downtrodden took her back to the underserved as a social worker at Rainbow House, the very first group home established for HIV+ adolescents and their children. When she began her tenure there in 1993, the attitude toward those with HIV/AIDS was much less tolerant than today. Rainbow House was vandalized and the girls were taunted by their neighbors. But Heather developed a very close relationship with the residents. She gave them respect and they learned to trust her. One mentally challenged resident asked her to accompany her to Disney World and another asked her to attend the birth of her baby. Heather's primary job was to teach the girls parenting and independent living skills. In reality she became a surrogate mother, helping with school work, teacher conferences, and doctor visits. By 1995 Heather had become the director of Rainbow House.
Since 1999 Heather has worked for Centurion Ministries, a non-profit organization founded by James McCloskey '64. There she seeks freedom for those who have been wrongfully imprisoned for rape or murder. She supervises the volunteer staff and helps them develop their cases, as well as pursues cases of her own. Each case requires thorough research utilizing police reports, autopsy reports, forensic evidence, trial and appeals transcripts, and communications with the prisoner.
Heather McNally has dedicated herself to helping members of our society who are often ignored or shunned, and she gives them love and respect. She has chosen a life bereft of huge financial gains, career development opportunities, perks and benefits because she truly finds joy in helping others.
In recognition of the sacrifices she has made in her life in order to provide dignity and opportunity for those most in need, the Bucknell Alumni Association is proud to bestow upon Heather McNally, Class of 1985, its Service to Humanity Award.
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