VOLUNTEER SPOTLIGHT: HEATHER PEPE By Megan Maynard
This month’s volunteer spotlight article showcases Heather Pepe!
Heather has been long dedicated to the aid of wildlife. In her formative years, she was a firefighter and EMT, having worked in sea turtle conservation for 22 years. For the past two years, she has worked with Wild Florida Rescue. Heather found her way to Florida years ago after having been born and raised in Long Island, NY. After more than a decade of living in the Caribbean, she made her way back to her roots only to be disappointed by the cold. Having been home for a year, she packed her bags and came to Florida in 2010.
She soon began to miss her work, which entailed working with sea turtles and poachers (in the Caribbean) to come to a sustainable agreement through tourism and research. Prompting her pilgrimage to Florida and hunt for STPS, she shares a book that she read (her “bible”) titled “Fire In The Turtle House.” Within the first week in Florida, she encountered a dead loggerhead on the beach and a local advised her she needed to contact STPS; which she immediately did, filling out a volunteer application. She has remained an active member for nine years.
After much discussion with the former STPS chair, she became the Goodwill Ambassador At Large. She is also on the sea turtle stranding permit, a role she is passionate about. In fact, Heather has an incredible drive and what she considers “instinct” to help these beautiful creatures. She is a firm believer that we ALL can play a role and even the smallest acts can make a difference.
Through STPS, Heather feels blessed to have met many individuals whom she admires, and recalls the joy of bringing a volunteer (Pat Rush) to the Caribbean to watch a leatherback turtle nest. It feels full circle being able to share her experiences with those who helped her in her STPS journey. After working with multiple turtle species for 16+ years, she (in the future) plans on sharing her experience of seeing them “in a natural and intimate environment so others can experience it as well.”
Two years ago, Heather started a not-for-profit wildlife ambulance service to add to her long list of selfless work. Having worked with many organizations, she can honestly rate STPS as “one of the top” organizations in its encouraging, supportive, inviting, and kind nature.
As one can see, Heather has a full plate but hopes to one day begin a volunteer exchange. She is the cofounder of NEST (a sea turtle conservation group) in Trinidad and Tobago and feels there is mutual learning that such organizations could share. As busy as her schedule is, she reminds volunteers they can really mold their skills, abilities, and availability into a position that suits them. She cautions that no matter what role(s) you commit to, be sure to truly commit.