Charles Schmidt honored for 30 years of volunteer service

By Lisa Moeshler 

Over the years Charles Schmidt has been a welcome and frequent sight around BriarPatch. You’ve probably caught a glimpse of him from time to time, cleaning off the outdoor tables during the busy lunch hour… picking trash out of the rosemary bushes in the parking lot… One week he even found four pairs of shoes that had been abandoned, but mostly he finds discarded food packaging and other litter that he removes year after year for a volunteer’s pay, which is to say zero, zip. In fact, no matter how hot or cold, windy or snowy the day may be, Charles simply steps forward and does what needs to be done—without exception. And it’s been that way since he moved to Nevada County from Eugene, Oregon in the early 80’s.

His wife, Barbara, and daughter, Isabelle, joined Charles in Grass Valley a few years later when his business was firmly established. And after they settled in, the family didn’t hesitate to locate and embrace their new neighborhood Co-op, then on Washington Street; it was something they’d done when they lived in Eugene as well. When the store moved to Joerschke Street, Charles served on the Board of Directors and Barbara took a job in the Produce and Wellness Department (then called HABA), where she worked for about five years. At the time, Charles was an excavation contractor, licensed by the state as a General Engineering Contractor, and for a time, he had large equipment like tractors and snow plows that he’d use to clear the Washington Street parking lot. He can remember years when he was clearing snow all the way through winter and into June! When the economy went south in ‘08, the local construction business went with it, causing Charles to sell off all of his equipment. He still had snow shovels though, and he’d show up at 5 a.m. to clear the sidewalks, even cracking an elbow on the ice one year in the process.

charles-schmidt-photoWe asked Charles what keeps him motivated to volunteer in so many different capacities year after year, and he said that volunteering is simply something he’s always done. He likes to keep busy and he enjoys the opportunities it offers for socializing, as well. After retiring from the excavation business in ‘08, he and Barbara opened a rustic furniture business, and they then built benches for the Co-op and switched them out every few months as their way of volunteering. In the fall of 2014 Barbara fell ill with cancer, and Charles took to caring for her until she passed away the following year. It wasn’t long before volunteering took on a new role in his life, providing purpose and community in a way that was both familiar and therapeutic.

As Charles describes it, “After a few months of doing litter work, cleaning tables, cleaning garbage cans, helping people jump their cars, directing traffic… I started going to hospice grief therapy, primarily to measure myself against others in the same loss-boat.” He was quick to add that after four sessions he decided he was as well off or better off than the other people there, so he quit. “The social aspect, the work itself, the mingling with the crowds, and being of some use to the store… were all helping me more than I was helping the store,” he explained.

The folks here at the BriarPatch, however, would not quite agree, as last month alone Charles logged upwards of 40 hours. Hilary Dart from our Marketing team is just one of many who continues to take notice of his tireless efforts, and felt it was time to show Charles just how much he means to all of us here. In a unanimous gesture of appreciation, the Volunteer of the Year Award was established to honor Charles, who received the inaugural distinction on December 11th.

It’s hard to believe that someone would actually do so much for their local Co-op, but it’s owners like Charles, whose contributions far exceed our expectation year after year, that have created the culture of community and giving that we all enjoy at BriarPatch today. We are so-o-o grateful for Charles 30 years of dedication and hard work, as well as his positive presence. He is truly an indispensable member of our community.

Please join us in honoring Charles by thanking him the next time you see him.

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