Disaster Services leader ‘totally surprised’ by winning major award

Mar 28, 2023

Major Michele Heaver has been announced as winner of the 2023 North Star Award from Minnesota Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (MNVOAD) for her tireless work in disaster relief.

Heaver leads the Emergency Disaster Services division for The Salvation Army in Minnesota and North Dakota. She also serves as vice president of MNVOAD, a consortium of disaster relief agencies that work together to mitigate and alleviate the impact of disasters.  

Since joining MNVOAD three years ago, Heaver “has been instrumental in setting direction for key portions of MNVOAD,” according to an award statement. “The Major’s relationships with other nonprofit agencies and government units reflect well on the MNVOAD organization.”

The North Star Award is given in honor of the late Garrett Allesandroni, a local volunteer who spent 16 years serving at disasters in Minnesota and nationwide. He exemplified the MNVOAD’s four major principles: Cooperation, Communication, Coordination and Collaboration.

“Garrett Allesandroni was a great example of the impact the VOAD 4 C’s can have on our communities, and Major Michele is clearly on that same mission,” the award statement reads. 

Heaver said she was “totally surprised” by the award. 

However, the award came as no surprise to those who know her. Heaver is widely known and respected for her work in disaster relief. She has been deployed to some of the largest U.S. disasters of the past two decades, including Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and Hurricane Harvey in 2017. 

Heaver has been a Salvation Army officer for 35 years and became interested in disaster relief through her husband, Major Bill Heaver, who passed in 2019. He spent many years traveling throughout the Midwest to teach staff and volunteers how to use The Salvation Army’s Emergency Radio Network (SATERN), which allows communication when power or phone lines are unavailable.  

“He was passionate about EDS,” Heaver said. “In working alongside him, I became passionate about it, too.”

The Salvation Army is one of the largest disaster relief agencies in the world, providing food, hydration, emotional and spiritual care, and other services for survivors of disasters and relief workers. 

The Salvation Army Northern Division includes more than 600 active disaster volunteers in Minnesota and North Dakota, and more volunteers are needed. Learn how to become a disaster volunteer or read a story about local volunteers who helped survivors of Hurricane Ida

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