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Schmidt named Community Hero

Dan Olk presents the 13th annual Community Hero Award to Dave Schmidt, director of the Clintonville Food Panry. Jeff Hoffman Photo

Food pantry director recognized

Dave Schmidt, director of the local food pantry, received the 13th annual Community Hero Award.

Clintonville native Dan Olk presented the award at the Clintonville Area Foundation’s annual banquet Oct. 21 at the Clintonville Riverside Golf Club.

Olk started the award program in 2011 to honor those who give selflessly of themselves to enrich the greater Clintonville area, defined as the school district.

“The recipients take time from their busy schedules to work toward a stronger community because they want to, in their mind it, is the right thing to do,” said Olk. “They are excellent role models in that they remind us to think of others, no matter how busy we are or how uncaring the big world seems to be.”

Olk offered background on Schmidt. His career was with the U.S. Social Security Administration and included specialized accounting, auditing and other checks of 280 Social Security offices.

He rose through the ranks to become a member of the Senior Executive Service, a high-level classification of federal positions.

His auditing team would fly into a city on Sunday evening and show up unannounced Monday morning at the Social Security office. Sometimes this was done with backup by the Secret Service if gang affiliations were suspected within that office.

Schmidt moved to Clintonville in 1999 to care for his parents and he has remained here since, building his record of community service.

He has volunteered for many local organizations and events in the past several years. Most of these stopped only due to the COVID pandemic.

Schmidt currently spends two mornings each week at the Shawano Area Food Center.

According to Olk, Schmidt is one of the center’s four founding members, from 11 years ago.
The Food Center is a distribution hub that serves 28 different food pantries in three counties, including Clintonville’s food pantry. Thousands of families benefit from the food gathered and distributed in various cities.

Schmidt was nominated for this award for his endless devotion to the Clintonville Area Food Pantry, where he has worked without pay since 2010.

He serves as the volunteer president of the pantry and, together with Mary Dobbe, leads the search for funding and donations.

The pantry was founded in 1984 and has moved among a few locations, including the Broken Spoke next to the Curling club, and a room of the armory with a window where donations were dropped off, before moving to its current location on 10th Street where it has expanded.

This year’s Community Hero was nominated by a group, describing themselves as his “admirers and fans”– of his actions, kindness, and compassion for the disadvantaged in the Clintonville area.

Statements from community

Olk related excerpts from the application he had received.

“Day and night, he has worked to feed the people of Clintonville and any others in dire need. And we mean day and night. There are times when he will be up long before dawn, driving someplace far away to pick up items to stock the pantry. He’s always in search of a deal, making the most of limited resources. If that means he has to drive to Shawano at 4 a.m., he’ll do it.”

“He works with other food banks, local farmers, warehouses, grocery stores, big box stores and social services agencies to refill the shelves weekly. There are boxes, pallets, and boxes of items coming in, each needing to be sorted, inventoried, stored, and then passed out to those in need.”

“Hundreds of people depend on him on a regular basis. In fact, we know he has 900 people on his list of clients. Certainly the economic stresses of these past years have been hard on individuals and families, and that list continues to increase.”

“Just as important, what he gives people is respect and compassion. There is no stigma, no judgment, and no sense of being a burden. All are welcome and cared for. To meet him is to know that you are in the presence of pure kindness.”

“He is unassuming, quietly going about his labor with no desire for attention. But if one thinks about the number of people impacted by him daily, the working poor, the migrant farmers, the single mothers, the elderly, those suffering illness, those with mental health stressors, those who fall through the cracks and have little support, after many years the significant impact on the Clintonville community cannot be understated.”

Olk presented the award to Schmidt who spoke for a few minutes about what motivates him.

The Clintonville Food Pantry serves the area defined by the Clintonville School District and targets families and individuals who are at 185 percent of the federal income guideline definition of poverty.

He sees this group getting larger and larger each year as situations for families has deteriorated.

This year the Pantry was awarded a $1,500 grant that goes toward providing 350 pounds of apples each month. Schmidt said that they give out 4,000 pounds of vegetables each month and 10,000 pound of food each month, which equated to 120,000 pounds a year.

Schmidt said that when the Covid pandemic came along the community really stepped up. He saw a great increase in much needed money and food donations. The community helped with church, school, post office and police department food drives.

The Heroes award comes with a donation of $2,000 to non-profit organizations that serve residents of the greater Clintonville area. Each year the recipient chooses how to allocate the donation to any nonprofits of their choice.

Schmidt will be splitting up the $2,000 award to go to six local organizations including $200 each to the Community Foundation of Clintonville, Clintonville Lions Club, United Way of Clintonville, Goodfellows, Compassionate Connections Center and $1,000 will be going to the Clintonville Area Food Pantry.

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