Meet Julia Heemstra, homeowner since 2011
How long have you lived in the community?
I have lived in Jackson for 14 ½ years.
What do you do here (for work)?
As the Director of the Wellness Department at St. John’s Medical Center, I direct and implement year-round worksite wellness programs for 1300+ Teton County employees, supervise Community Health initiatives, manage a regionally renowned Wellness Speaker Series, oversee the SJMC Healing Touch program, and coordinate community outreach and collaboration around Affordable Care Act navigation.
I am absolutely passionate about my work; it is a big part of the reason why I have chosen to remain in Jackson.
Why do you choose to make Jackson home?
I was originally drawn to the Tetons by the climbing and backcountry skiing opportunities that the range offers. Now, fourteen years later, my focus has expanded. Now, I love Jackson not just for the Tetons but also for its proximity to other ranges filled with just as many opportunities, such as the Wind River Range.
More importantly, however, it is the community of Jackson that keeps me here. Some of my closest friends and colleagues are people I met in my first few years here. We have experienced a lot of “life” together – successes, challenges, births and even deaths. Every day, I am grateful for the history I share with these incredible individuals, am that I am known by this community in the manner that I am.
In what ways do you engage with your community?
Working in concert with the Romeo family, I serve as the local contact for the Steve Romeo Memorial Fund. Steve was a long time partner of mine who passed on in an avalanche in March 2012. Through this fund, we support basic avalanche education for all Physics students at Jackson Hole High School. I also volunteer my time annually to participate in the field day with these students.
Steve’s fund has also supported Skinny Ski’s Annual Avalanche Awareness Night, WYSAW, the Teton Pass Ambassador Program, Teton County Search & Rescue helicopter training and provided funding to assist Snow King Ski Patrol’s purchase of their vacuum immobilization device.
Through my job, I coordinate the free community navigation for Affordable Care Act signups, provide ongoing outreach to underserved patient populations, champion community partnerships like our Hospital Vertical Harvest Farmer’s Market, and support student wellness initiatives in the elementary and high schools.
In addition, in the past twelve months, I have launched small humanitarian initiatives in South Africa (where I was raised). In May, I began distributing water filters to schools and clinics located in areas without access to clean water. In January of 2019, I will return to South Africa to continue this work –now funded by the Rotary Club of Jackson Hole - with the goal of creating access to clean water for over 1700 people.
How has affordable home ownership impacted you?
Purchasing my home was an absolute “game-changer” for me. It – literally – was a dream come true. I remember the day distinctly - and how I literally wept after everyone left because I was so incredibly grateful to finally be a homeowner in Teton County.
My level of gratitude to the Housing Authority was immense – and remains immense. I could not be a homeowner without their program.
What’s your favorite part about owning your own home?
I now believe I can stay in Jackson. My first seven years here felt so tenuous. While I was working full time in the social service sector, I also felt like I was holding on for dear life – knowing that my housing could evaporate at any given moment.
Now, I feel confident in my future here and that confidence has allowed me to be able to redirect my energies into giving back to this community, and the world, in a more significant fashion.