Heilaman honored for 'colorful' service

Interior decorator is 2011 Scoop Thurman award
By: Gloria Beverage, Colfax Record Editor
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Connie Heilaman may have traveled the world, but her heart belongs to Colfax. In recognition of her volunteer efforts on behalf of the community, Heilaman will be presented with the 2011 Scoop Thurman Community Service Award during Wednesday’s annual Colfax Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon. The annual award, named for the Record’s longtime publisher/editor Allen G. “Scoop” Thurman, is given to an individual who goes above and beyond to help the community. Longtime business owner and former chamber president Robby Robinson describes Heilaman as a sparkler. “She’s all over the place,” said Robinson in describing the breadth of Heilaman’s business and volunteer activities. Helen Wayland, another longtime business owner and resident, concurs. She’s worked alongside Heilaman on many projects and praises her seemingly tireless efforts on behalf of the city. A resident of Chicago Park and a Colfax business owner since 1983, Heilaman has studied and traveled abroad extensively. Raised in the Sacramento area, she studied art at American River College, the University of California, Davis and the University of London. “I was painting portraits when I was 10,” she said. “I’ve always been into art, but I knew I couldn’t make a living as an artist so I went back to school for interior design.” Even as a high school student, Heilaman said, she believed in giving back through volunteerism. While her husband, Ron, was stationed at U.S. Air Force Bases in Japan and Minot, No. Dakota, Heilaman’s volunteer efforts went into high gear. She taught art classes at the school and became active with the Airmen’s Wives Club, serving as president. Her efforts earned her the title of Mrs. Minot Air Force Base, an honor given by the military in recognition of volunteer work. After the Air Force, the couple returned to California, settling in Wheatland where Heilaman started her own interior design business and, of course, began volunteering. She became active with the Woodland Arts Center and was instrumental in fundraising efforts to restore the Woodland Opera House. Heilaman also coordinated youth activities at her church. Eventually, the Heilamans opted to move to the foothills. “My son and husband always wanted to live in the mountains,” she said, adding they also wanted their son to attend a small high school. After four years of searching, they settled on a home in Chicago Park and Heilaman opened an interior design studio in Colfax. While trying to rebuild her business, Heilaman found several projects that called to her, including the Colfax serving as president of the Sierra Vista Center’s first board of directors. Over the years she has overseen the extensive renovation efforts, including painting of the exterior and interior and the remodel of the kitchen and bathrooms. Her vision of the School Street facility as a flourishing community arts center is coming to fruition, Heilaman said. Currently, there are a variety of ongoing art and dance classes for all ages, but she’d like to see more classes and activities for children in the summer and an area where seniors can host activities. As a member of the city’s Design Review Committee, Heilaman influenced the city’s guidelines for signage and worked on the sidewalk beautification project in the historic district as well as plans for Roy Toms Plaza. “We got the (Colfax) Garden Club to do the planters,” she said. “And we got the lampposts and trash cans as well as sold bricks (to place throughout town).” She also points with pride to the renovation of her building at the corner of Main and Church Streets. “It was such an ugly building before,” she said. Heilaman admits she has difficulty saying “no.” For the past four years, she has chaired the city’s Railroad Days celebration in September and the Spring Green Festival in May. She believes her greatest success has been gaining the cooperation of groups working together during the events. As she finishes her first term as president of the Colfax Area Chamber of Commerce, Heilaman reflects on the impact of geotourism on Colfax with the hope that it will draw visitors to the historic district. “We have 13 sites listed,” she said. “It’s a new way of developing tourism in our area.” Even with all the business and volunteer commitments, Heilaman still manages to join a group of women from Alta for a weekly hike. “And I go to a lot of my grandchildren’s events. They’re into singing, acting, dancing and soccer.” she said. Still, Heilaman has hopes for Colfax’s future. “We’ve got such a prime location. I would love to see us get a rolling stock museum. That’ll make us a destination. And I’d like to see the hotel finished,” she said. “I guess I’m just an optimist.” ________ Annual Chamber luncheon What: Colfax Area Chamber of Commerce Annual meeting, luncheon When: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 26 Where: Sierra Vista Center, 55 School St. Cost: Advance tickets $15; at the door $18 Call: (530) 346-8888