Key Volunteer Spotlight: Ellen Heitzig
Updated: Oct 26
Name: Ellen Heitzig
Where do you call home? St Louis, MO
What is your volunteer role? Co-Registrar
Ellen and her family
Tell us a little about yourself. How do you spend your time outside of KAAN?
I was born in Gyeongsangnam-do Province and adopted when I was five months old. I grew up in central Illinois with my younger sister, also adopted from Korea. I received my master's degree in social work from Washington University in St. Louis and am currently a district social worker with the City of St. Charles School District. I also serve as the co-liaison for a nonprofit we adopted within the school district, Care to Learn. I get the opportunity to chair an annual gala each year to help sustain our program. My first trip back to Korea was in 1997 and since have traveled to Korea several times serving as the social worker for Sejong Cultural Experience Inc. on the annual Korea trip each year. In this position, I worked with adolescents and facilitated biological family reunions. I miss these trips immensely and look forward to rejoining the trip in the future.
I am the proud momma to an incredible 5 year old boy and the spunkiest 2 year old little girl. We love going on hikes and trying out the different parks around STL. We are also missing playdates with our friends!
I treasure the time spent with friends and family, a good date night, and adventures with my kiddos.
Ellen at her wedding reception with Annie, her sister
How did you hear about KAAN?
I presented with Sejong Cultural Education in Albany.
How did you decide to get involved in KAAN?
After presenting with Sejong Cultural Education in Albany, I was approached to help with the youth program. Over the years, my role has changed but so has my perspective of KAAN. I am truly invested in the mission and over the years, KAAN has been a constant in my life. Getting involved as a volunteer has given me so much- relationships, an outlet, a tradition we as a family look forward to year after year.
What issues/topics related to adoption are you most interested in?
I am most interested in the stories; the birth searches, experiences of other adoptees. I am fascinated by the fact that each adoptee has their own narrative, yet there can be so many parallels. I appreciate the fact that KAAN is a space where we have the ability to share and be vulnerable. I have had the opportunity to present on topics centered around birth search, growing up in a predominately white community, and Sejong Cultural Education's annual trip to Korea.
Ellen and her family with the Ashlee Family, KAAN Conference 2019
What do you love most about the KAAN community?
The relationships. I look forward to the conference each year as it has become a time where my entire family can be apart of a piece of me. My husband and I have formed lifelong friendships and we hope to pass that along to our children. KAAN serves as a space for us to relate to others on a different level. It has also been a key component into allowing my husband to truly understand what it is like to share a life with a transracial adoptee. I look forward to our conversations following KAAN and the insight we take away from the weekend.
What is a fun or random fact people might not know about you?
I recently became a “book lady”! Due to the pandemic, we had to cancel the annual gala I chair every year for another organization. I decided to add another thing to my plate and decided to start selling children's books, Usborne Books & More. I love sharing the importance of literacy and the book perks for my own children aren't too bad either!
Anything else you'd like to share with the KAAN community?
I can't thank Katie, Rachel, the Advisory Council and other key volunteers for all the time and effort that goes into making KAAN available to the adoption community. KAAN continues to give me & my family the support, education, and space to grow.
I also want to give Sejong Cultural Education a shoutout as I may not have dove into KAAN if it hadn't been for the push. I grew up with Sejong and it holds a special place in my heart for so many reasons.