McKel Heebink sits near bench on campusMcKel Heebink

Meet McKel Heebink, a Winona State Warrior for whom community service is a way of life. In fact, after our interview, she was headed home to help at a fundraiser founded by her aunt and her mother to provide care packages for families whose newborn infants need to be airlifted to Children’s Hospital. McKel is president of Delta Phi Epsilon, a social sorority dedicated to serving three philanthropies: the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders and the Delta Phi Epsilon Foundation, as well as volunteering in the Winona community.

From McKel’s open and friendly manner, I would never have guessed that she was once shy and reluctant to call herself a leader. But that essential extroversion and genuine interest others is drawn from memories of her mother and serves her well in her role as president of one of the largest sororities at WSU and as volunteer in the community.

Read the transcript* below to find out more about how she works to improve our world.

What do you do in Delta Phi Epsilon?

I oversee everything in the sorority. If I put my duties into words it sounds like I do nothing, but if you follow me around for just three days you’d know I get email after email, often from girls who have questions and don’t know where else to go, and from Nationals—they want to be sure that we’re doing good in the community and that we’re staying close as Sisters. We do want to give back to our community but it’s also really important to be a family. I also plan our Sisterhood bonding events. For example, last week we canceled our weekly meeting and did a candle pass instead, which is an opportunity for people to open up to their Sisters and share what they’re going through in life right now.

What attracted you to this particular club?

I was really involved in my high school with clubs and sports, and when I came to college, I said “I am not going to join anything. I’m just going to be a student and that’s it!” But in two weeks I was in a sorority and also on the cheer team, so that lasted long! At recruitment, the girls were so much fun and so different but they all accepted each other, and I really liked that I could just be myself. The service aspect was also a huge draw. I was huge into volunteering at my high school; my best friend and I actually started the first ever high school chapter of Student United Way, an organization that’s about giving back to your community. During my recruitment, we talked about DPE’s community service and that’s what I wanted.

After graduation, will you still be involved with volunteering? How and with what organization?

Oh yes, definitely! It’s just that joy you get from helping people. I’ve always wanted to volunteer at a soup kitchen. My club in high school kept trying to find one but they’re really hard to find in my area. Feed My Starving Children is something really fun—I’ve done that quite a few times and I’d like to work with them again. I’m really open to anything—anything and everything.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?

My mom—definitely. My mom was my best friend and I’d talk to her about everything. She definitely taught me everything I need to know to get through life and now when I’m struggling with something, I just remember the advice my mom would always give me. She was an amazing woman; she was that kind of person where everyone went to her for advice.

If you could sit on this bench and talk with anyone living or dead, who would it be and what would you talk about?

Honestly, my mom– and I’d tell her what I’ve been up to. I’ve changed so much since she’s been gone. I used to be that really shy person who would only talk to my three best friends, and to show her where I’ve come and what I’ve done would be really cool. And I’d ask for any more advice about all the new experiences that are coming into my life… I could talk to her forever.

–Elizabeth Meinders

*Transcript has been edited for length and clarity