Spotlight on Charlie Schmuker: Volunteer Driver

Charlie traces his commitment to helping others to when his father, in 2009, received hospice care.  The two were living together in a small town in Washington State, and Charlie fondly remembers Jim, one of the volunteers who came to the house allowing Charlie a break from caregiving.  Touched by how much his father’s mood lightened whenever he visited, Charlie vowed that when retired, he would make a difference in somebody’s life the way Jim did to his father.  

Charlie Schmuker

Following in his mother’s footsteps, who used to drive for MoW in Aurora, Charlie, who by then had moved back to Denver, began volunteering in 2010.   In addition to driving two routes a week, Charlie is always willing to do extra, whether it’s filling in for other routes as needed or picking up donated gifts from other organizations. 
Soft spoken and unassuming, Charlie’s passion for his work at TLC is unmistakable. He rattled off all the reasons he loves volunteering:   It’s the wonderful people, from the “executive director to the dishwasher”, to knowing the volunteers, whom he described as “like-minded people,” to the satisfaction of doing something for those less fortunate, to being able to bring his grandchildren – who he knows someday will follow in  his footsteps – on routes with him.

A carpenter by trade, he spent his career remodeling commercial buildings, finding satisfaction in seeing the tangible evidence of his work.  When it comes to volunteering, it’s the impact of the human connection he forges with his clients that brings him satisfaction.  It’s easy, he says, to be nice to the friendly ones, but Charlie has a big heart when it comes to understanding people who are going through difficult times.  One client, whom he has delivered to for years, used to always be grumpy, complaining about everything from the food to her personal life.  Rather than ignore her, he would say “Our food is good today, hope you can enjoy it.”  Over time, her mood lightened; she more often answers the door and the two now engage in light-hearted conversation. 

Earlier this year, in one of his frequent visits back to Washington State, Charlie ran into Jim in the gym.  He told him of his work at TLC MoW, sharing with him how much he had influenced his life.  Charlie has truly paid it forward, and the impact he has had on our clients is immeasurable.

Spotlight on Lorie Schlomann: 12 Years of Volunteering

I had the pleasure of recently sitting down with Lorie Schlomann as she recounted her 12- year involvement with our organization. “I just came from home,” she said, “where I spent the morning perusing my three large TLC Meals on Wheels folders – labeled Board, Events and Clients.” The three files were filled with memories representing the many hats she has worn over the years – her two terms serving on the Board, her involvement in organizing Theatre Night and 12 Days of Gifts, and letters of appreciation she received from clients and their families.

When her father was diagnosed with cancer in 2004, she realized she had lived a “lucky” life, prompting her desire to give back. She started volunteering for a number of organizations, but was drawn to TLC Meals on Wheels because at the core, our organization had “heart.”

Lorie listed off the positive changes she’s witnessed over the years – from the updated website, brochure, and increased visibility, to moving into our current facility at Ames Elementary School and how the route sheets now include directions. Yet that wonderful feeling of warmth whenever she walks into the building and permeates everything about our organization has never diminished. Whether it is the board’s continual effort to reach more seniors and improve our services, to our previous Executive Director Phil Miller conducting a funeral service in the backyard of a long-time client, or passing from one client to another a recliner which helps elderly people stand upright, doing good for our clients is never compromised.

Route 10

Yet it is the memories of her Route 10 clients that touches her the most. She remembers Archie, who lived on $1.00 a day, yet insisted on paying something for his meals. Lorie wanted to help, prompting her long time commitment to donating to our organization. One Friday when she delivered meals to Stan, another client on her route, volunteer driver “FiFi” (Felice Cottle), was sitting in Stan’s living room. He had arranged for them to meet as “they were so much alike,” and the two have been close friends ever since.

For years, she and her husband Bob hosted an annual luncheon in their backyard, inviting clients as well as FiFi. “Thanks for your lovely lunches and hospitality. You are the best – there will never be another you,” one client wrote in his thank you letter. Another client no doubt expressed the sentiments of the others when he wrote “Your ‘heart’ is so very special to us because it sees and hears our needs and makes a difference; caring and providing, listening and sharing. You are my special friend and I am so blessed that God would send you to me.”

From left to right: Archie, FiFi, Stan, Lorie and Joe at their annual luncheon

Lessons Learned

In addition to the wonderful friendships she developed with clients, volunteers as well as corporate sponsors she’d met over the years, her work taught her invaluable life lessons. Whether it’s feeding her 40 year old MS client or holding the hand of a dying client surrounded by their loving family, Lorie learned to fully embrace her clients for who they are. This acceptance helped forge closer friendships with her clients, as well as erase the fear that often comes from befriending individuals different than ourselves.

This is a lesson for us all – whether it is our clients, our aging parents or spouse, or our children – that the rewards of fully embracing people leads to greater intimacy and connection that enriches all our lives.

Spotlight on Joel Collier: Volunteer Driver and Former Broncos Defensive Coach

Joel Collier is best known as the architect of the Broncos Orange Crush defense of the 1970’s. I had the opportunity to sit down at MOW and chat with him about the Broncos 2016 Super Bowl victory and the changing face of football.
Joel Collier
Joel attributes the Broncos championship season to their determination as well as their cohesiveness as a team. “Football is the ultimate team sport, and in order to win, you have to play well together,” he said. “Some teams have a lot of tension between offense and defense, blaming each other in the locker room for the game’s outcome.” In contrast, when the Broncos were embroiled in close games this season, they not only showed determination but came together as a team to pull out a win.

For Joel, defensive coaching today is so different from when he coached in the 1970’s that it’s like comparing apples to oranges. “For one thing, the game is much more wide open,” he said, “and the rules have changed to benefit the offense.” Another major difference is there were no free agents, providing him the opportunity to coach the same players for 10-12 years. It’s hard to imagine that in the 1970’s the players had off season jobs. Now they attend off season training camps.

Looking towards next season, Collier thinks if the Broncos can keep the defense intact and improve the offense they will be in the playoffs. But statistically, it is very hard to win two Super Bowls in a row.

Although Collier doesn’t miss the long hours he logged while coaching, he misses the players, coaches, and competitiveness of the game since leaving in 1992. His relies on his son, who is Director of Pro Personnel of the Atlanta Falcons, to keep him up to date.

Joel was a committed football coach whose career in Denver spanned 20 years. He has a similar passion for MOW, having been a volunteer driver for 10 years. “I like seeing the people,” he said. “It gives me a good feeling.”