NASW Foundation National Programs
NASW Social Work Pioneers®
Betty Hepner (1927 - 2002)
Betty Hepner made pioneering contributions as a creator and developer of the Self Help Group Network, which referred callers experiencing medical or personal problems to appropriate organizations in their communities. If a person had a challenge not yet addressed by a self-help group, she helped that individual create one. Her novel approach to organizing volunteers led to the development of a national database resource of self-help groups. She founded the Self Help Group Network in 1983.
When she began the network, Hepner had a list of 95 self-help groups, the information for which was housed on index cards. By 1996, Hepner had a database of more than 600 such groups and fielded 2,500 calls a year. Her callers came from many ethnic and socioeconomic groups.
She never received a salary for her work, eventually donating the network to the Carnegie Library, where it became part of Contact Pittsburgh.
Hepner served as director of Volunteer Action Center from 1970 – 1982. Her primary goal was to recruit and train volunteers for other agencies. Hepner saw the value in volunteer service and developed the potential of those who served. She left that position to create the Self Help Group Network.
Earlier in her career Hepner worked with the Young Men and Women’s Hebrew Association, leaving her full-time position to raise a family from 1956 – 1970. She continued to work part-time for the Kingsley Association and Visiting Nurses Association. At both organizations, she helped develop support groups from patients recovering from stroke.
Hepner received her M.S.W. from the University of Pittsburgh in 1950 and her B.S. in Psychology from the same university in 1948.
Hepner began her career informally early in her life when she helped refugee children at the Irene Kaufmann Settlement House and as a counselor at Jewish summer camps.
Her family created the Betty S. Hepner Scholarship Fund at the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Social Work.
Significant Achievements and Awards
In 1982, Hepner was named Social Worker of the Year by the Southwest Pennsylvania chapter of the National Association of Social Workers. She was an active member of ACSW and NASW.
Hepner served on the national board of directors of the Association of Volunteer Bureaus for several years.