The Lions Club of Greenwood named Yolande van Heerden its Outstanding Citizen for 2018 at a Lions Night Out event held on Thursday.
Van Heerden grew up in South Africa and first came to the United States as an exchange student. She has lived in several places across the country, including Montana, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. In 2012, she chose Mississippi and Greenwood to call “home.”
Van Heerden is an artist with her own line called TomboyArt. She teaches art and sewing classes mainly at ArtPlace Mississippi. She also has worked with the Museum of the Mississippi Delta helping children create a community quilt, which is on display at the museum. Van Heerden also has taught classes at the Greenwood Mentoring Group, the Baptist Town Community Center, Threadgill Elementary School and the Depot Senior Citizen Center. She works with Greenwood Little Theatre and the Greenwood Shakespeare Project, where she helps students design and sew their own costumes.
Van Heerden has been teaching sewing to youth at ArtPlace for several years now. She includes an entrepreneurial element, teaching her students that skills such as sewing can form the basis of earning a living. She takes her students to Delta State University to tour the fashion merchandising department. In 2016, she decided to add a twist. At the end of the classes, the students would host a fashion show and wear their own crafted fashions.
Last year, when the application process for van Heerden’s classes opened, ArtPlace received 80 applications from 12 different schools.
Rather than choose 20 out of the 80 students who applied, van Heerden accepted all of the students and reached out to the community for help. Many donated additional supplies and money, including several of the Lions Club members, to help her 80 students have what they needed to successfully participate in her sewing class.
When presenting the Outstanding Citizen award to van Heerden, Lions Club President Cameron Abel said, “Yolande is always there, sharing the love, sharing the color, sharing the light. … You were chosen by a group of Lions who hear your voice and see your light and color, who are thankful that you chose our community, that you make Greenwood your home, and that you represent the best of us. So, we as Lions present this award to you, Yolande, as an affirmation. Keep doing what you do. Keep being you.”