Oklahoma Universal Human Rights Award Honorees
Organizations are underlined.
April Dawn Heiple
Award ceremony introduction as made by Bill Bryant of United Nations Association of OKC:
Homelessness is the focus of our next winner, as well.
April Heiple is a Chickasha gal – although she lives in Norman now.
April has worked for more than twenty years as an advocate for people in need. Early on, she was dedicated to women and children in crisis. She worked for the Women’s Service and Family Resource Center. In recent years, she has felt the pull toward serving people who are living on the street. In 2010, she received an opportunity to serve the Norman community through an organization called Food and Shelter for Friends.
In 2015, April, along with her community partner Gene McKown — founder of Ideal Homes — launched a campaign to build a new campus for homeless services. The idea would be many small individual homes with a large community center for food and support services. In a short amount of time, the two had built enough financial resources and in-kind support to build what would become known as McKown Village; a community for people in need.
Article 25 tells us that, “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of theirself and of their family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services….”
You can understand why we believe that April Heiple truly is a champion of human rights.
April Heiple was born in Chickasha, Oklahoma where she grew up attending Chickasha Public Schools. After graduation from high school, she attended the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma where she obtained a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. April moved to Norman for Graduate School at the University of Oklahoma. April has made Norman her home since.
April found her voice for advocacy as an undergraduate student after she began volunteering at Womens Service and Family Resource Center as a crisis advocate. Quickly she came to know the injustice within our communities and dedicated herself to service.
April has worked for more than twenty years as an advocate for people in need. Her early years were dedicated to women and children in crisis but the pull toward serving people living on the street became strong. In 2010, April Heiple received an opportunity to serve the Norman community through an organization called Food and Shelter for Friends.
When hired, April Heiple was given a directive. Norman needed a champion for ending homelessness. That was a job April took very seriously. She began sharing the stories of those living on the street with everyone who would listen. She worked to expand services for those living without homes and food. She worked tirelessly to build community support for a project that would change the way homeless services would be seen.
In 2015, April Heiple, along with her community partner Gene McKown founder of Ideal Homes, launched a campaign to build a new campus for homeless services. The idea would be many small individual homes with a large community center for food and support services. In a short amount of time, the two had built enough financial resources and in-kind support to build what would become known as McKown Village; a community for people in need.
McKown Village opened in 2017. It features 32 cottages for individuals and families who are homeless along with a large community center which feeds two hot meals each day to anyone who is hungry. The community center also offers day services for those living on the street as well as a wide range of services such as life skills classes, medical services, and community events.
If you ever hear April speak about homelessness you will notice immediately how personally she feels everyone deserves food and a home. She speaks from a human centered philosophy and insists no person can achieve their life’s potential without a few basic human rights; food and shelter.
She is a staunch advocate for human rights for those who often have no one to advocate for them.