Your Neighbor: Meet Heather Zifchak

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 2, 2024

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By Mandy Haggerson

For the Clemmons Courier

“You always come back to what you were,” smiled Heather Zifchak. 

Like many parents who are close to becoming empty nesters, taking an assessment of those formative years is an exciting and bittersweet whirlwind. 

“Raising my daughter Mary Elizabeth has brought me such joy and also made me so grateful for my own parents and our close relationship,” Zifchak said. “When I moved here after attending St. Catherine’s School in Richmond, Virginia, to go to Salem College, I realized very quickly how special this area and place is. I mean, how many college campuses have three fountains from the 1850s?” 

“My husband, Pete, and I can’t believe that we have now begun touring colleges for Mary Elizabeth because she is a rising senior at Salem Academy,” Zifchak said. 

What has been especially meaningful for Zifchak is watching the academy present opportunities for her daughter that she felt were helpful to her when she was at the college. 

“What I have always loved about my experience outside admiring the history, I mean, how cool is it that the college is older than the country, is how much the teachers are so invested,” Zifchak said. “You went to class, and you had about 12 women in your classroom, and after you left, you’d see your professor at lunch, and the conversations would continue. I loved that you could not possibly slip through the cracks at Salem College. My professors knew their subject matters to the core. It was in their DNA. Another perk has been that my friends from college are still some of the best friends I have had to this day.”

Seeing her daughter flourish at Salem Academy has been especially exciting with their robotics team. 

“It was started about 10 years ago to generate more interest for girls in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) field,” Zifchak said. “It has really taken off, and now she even helps other interested students set up programs in their own schools. I’m so proud of her initiative and desire to not just further learn but to help other girls discover their passion for it too. It just takes one person to inspire and believe in you. She likes doing that for others.”

Supporting others has also been important to Zifchak throughout her life. After graduating from Salem College, Zifchak wore many hats, including owning the Village Fabric Shop with her mother, working in outside sales, teaching jazzercise classes, crafting and volunteering. 

“Volunteering has been something that I have always strongly believed in. Time, talent and treasure — one of those resources can benefit others greatly, and I have found that I get much more than I actually give,” Zifchak said. 

Having spent so many years with the Junior League of Winston-Salem and the Garden Club, Zifchak is now a sustaining member in both. For Christmas this past year, Zifchak and her 80-year-old mother made advent calendars for their church, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. 

“Another way we have as a family enjoyed giving back, is by fostering through the Forsyth Humane Society,” Zifchak said. “One of my friends from the Garden Club hosted a meeting at their Country Club location, and I became smitten. We’ve now fostered around 48 kittens at our home. It’s a passion for our whole family and anyone who will listen, whether it’s at the grocery store or at a friend’s home; I try to spread the word about the need and importance.

“Even if you can’t foster, there are so many other ways to impact the animals by donating through their wish list online or monetarily. It means so much to the animals to get that support.” 

As Zifchak firmly believes in everything coming full circle, she has ended up at Salem College as the alumni director. She relishes in the fact that can sometimes include her passion for animals too. 

“Last week, we had puppies and kittens come in during exam week to provide a little comic relief for the students,” Zifchak said. “I love that I get to spend my day connecting former Salem College graduates. It’s something that is near and dear to my heart. Mary Elizabeth has helped me with events, most recently at the reunion check-in table, and even mentioned wanting to do it again next year. Seeing the volunteerism bug through your child without any prodding is special. It’s an exciting year for all of us, and I don’t take one minute for granted.