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Local volunteer recognized for her charitable efforts

By Shelly Birkelo
August 30, 2015

JANESVILLE—Robin Schmidt didn't give much thought to volunteering in her community until she qualified to become a Habitat for Humanity homeowner.

After she had to invest 250 hours of sweat equity into her house, her mindset changed.

“It got me focused on volunteerism,” she said.

That was 10 years ago.

Since then, the 54-year-old Janesville woman has helped several local charities.

The local AAA travel agent was rewarded with the AAA Wisconsin Ambassador of the Year Award.

“I was nominated by one of my co-workers,” said Schmidt, who was surprised when she learned of the honor.

Along with the recognition came a $500 check for the charity of her choice: the Salvation Army in Janesville.

“I really believe in what they're doing for our community,” said Schmidt, who attends church there on Sundays and tries to help out however she can.

She also rings bells during the holiday and Christmas in July fundraising campaigns, teaches Sunday school for adults, has helped with Bible school, cooked chili for 350 people at a community party, sold snacks during Friday open gym sessions and was active with Celebrate Recovery, the Salvation Army's Christian 12-step program for people with hurts, habits and hangups.

When Schmidt first became a single mom, she had to use some of the Salvation Army's services, including its food pantry and Christmas help.

“There were times I was struggling, including a couple years ago when I was very sick and hospitalized. That's another reason I'm motivated to help where I can because the Salvation Army was there when I needed help, too,” she said.

Maj. Ruth Fay said Schmidt is a mom who has learned the value of what the Salvation Army does and gives back.

“It's heartwarming she thought about us,” Fay said.

The $500 donation made on Schmidt's behalf bought groceries for the food pantry, which is part of the Salvation Army's social services program.

Fay said Schmidt inspires others to get involved.

“That's the kind of person Robin is: very dedicated to the community and to others. She will do the extra-mile things, and for that we are very thankful,” Fay said.

Schmidt has persuaded the local AAA office to adopt a family at Christmas, and the agency donated $500 to a family in need.

“Last year, we adopted a family from the YWCA's (Alternatives to) Domestic Violence program, bought and wrapped gifts for them,” she said.

“AAA is very community service-oriented and encourages us to give in the community,” Schmidt said.

Her volunteerism doesn't stop there.

Schmidt has volunteered at ECHO's school supply drive and helped pack Easter baskets for those who otherwise wouldn't have them.

Schmidt said she hasn't volunteered as much lately, which leaves her feeling guilty.

“My mom is very sick and battling cancer, so I'm spending less time volunteering now and more time assisting my parents,” she said.

She encourages others to volunteer.

“No matter what your skill set is, there are organizations that can really use you. There's also a lot of people who can just use kindness,” she said.

“We have a great community and a lot of people who reach out,” Schmidt said.

"For those who don't, they're missing out on a great blessing.”