Meet Sara Heidenheimer: Five Questions for Dixon Center’s Administrative and Program Manager

How long have you been with Dixon Center?

I have been with Dixon Center about five years as Administrative and Program Manager. We had just moved to Maryland from Hawaii [where my husband had been stationed with the Navy], and I was trying to find a job. I had been out of work for three years while we were in in Hawaii;, I stayed with the kids. Because of that time, I was having a very hard time finding a job when we [moved to our new station].

I was on LinkedIn and someone had shared a post for the Katie Couric show. She was looking for three women who were trying to get back into the workforce; a stay-at-home-mom, a recent college graduate, and someone who had been laid off. That’s actually how I got in touch with Dixon Center, through the show.

Someone at the show had passed my information on to Dave. They told him they were looking for a job for a military spouse. They mentioned I was interested in working for military nonprofits, and asked Dave if he knew anyone they could set up an interview with. Dave said, “Wait a minute, we need someone at Dixon Center.” So he came out to New York, I had a breakfast interview with them. On the last day of the show, they did a “You’re hired” segment. Dave was in the audience. JG and the kids were there, and that’s when I was hired. I got hired on TV!

And I’ve been with Dixon Center ever since.

What does it mean to you to be a military spouse and family?

JG’s service is definitely his service. I do not take credit. I’ve never really worn my husband’s rank. I have my own job, I have my own career. But I am extremely proud of my husband for doing what he believes in. He’s doing it because he truly wants to serve his country. He believes in what he’s doing. He believes in supporting his junior sailors and helping them to succeed. If I’ve had any small part in making that possible for him, that makes me extremely proud.

It doesn’t come without sacrifice. He’s not home a lot of the time. He’s missed out on a lot of things with the kids, and it’s hard sometimes to try to cover for Mom and Dad. But they’re pretty tough kids. They’re resilient. I think for spouses and kids, you have to go with the flow and not make a big deal out of things that aren’t in the scheme of things.

Being part of the military community through my husband is part of what has made me so passionate about working with military nonprofits like Dixon Center. I see from the inside how awesome the military community is and how awesome the families and service members are. I think that’s what led me to realize what my passion was.

What does your job entail?

As Administrative and Program Manager, the administrative part is really what any admin does; letters, and booking travel, expense reports, scheduling meetings, all of that. Then the program manager part right now is focused mostly on our Women Veterans Program.

My husband is Navy. We were engaged before he went to boot camp. So I’ve been through the whole process with him. We lived in Pensacola, FL when he was in A school then his first ship was in San Diego, CA. I started working for the Army Services YMCA. I was an admin there. I also ran some other programs for single sailors. From there, my boss moved to Lincoln Military Housing as their Community Services Director, and she soon brought me over as the Community Services Coordinator. We planned free events for the families that lived in military housing.

After four or five years of working for military families and military nonprofits, I discovered my real passion was in working with those folks in whatever capacity. Whether it was in planning or administrative, I just wanted to continue working with military families and organizations that supported them.

What was the genesis of the Women Veterans Program?

The program started early on in our planning. We had an anonymous donor whose passion was helping women veterans. There are all these resources for post-9/11 veterans, a lot of it going to mostly male veterans. There’s just not a lot of help going to specifically female veterans. We wanted something that focused solely on female veterans and that crossed all generations; it wasn’t just post-9/11, it wasn’t just WWII.

We helped so many women early on that the donor just renewed our funds for another couple years. We have been able to continue the program through other donors that believe in the program and want to see it keep going.

In my involvement with the program, I’ve become perhaps too passionate about it. When you’re talking to these women and hearing their stories, you get attached and protective. I guess that’s not a bad thing after all. It’s a very rewarding part of my job.

Would you say that’s been your proudest project at Dixon Center?

The Women Veterans Program, that’s definitely up there. Being able to make such a difference in the lives of these women veterans. But also, providing assistance any way we can. Even when it’s helping other organizations work together and make a bigger difference together than they can on their own.

I’ve been blessed to work with some amazing organizations and some great people. Dixon Center is more than just a work team; it feels more like a family. We’re all extremely passionate about the military and the people we serve and making changes for them for the better. If we can’t help every person that comes to us, we do our best to connect them with someone who can.