We analyze what needs to be done and we find the most efficient way to do it.
“Tom Schmidt? I just saw him at Buckeye Family Day.”
“Tom? I was just with him at Junior Leadership’s graduation. The kids think he is super!” –Susan Vlcek
“He’s a great soccer coach―he’s a soccer nut like me.”
If you want to find Tom Schmidt around town, look for a group of kids engaged in an activity because he is probably the one leading it. From United Way to Junior Leadership to Knights of Columbus, Tom does not settle for minimal involvement.
I called Tom and told him we wanted to feature him in our newsletter and I probably only needed about 10 minutes of his time. I could not have been more wrong with my estimate. After an hour, we were still talking.
To begin with, Tom has always been an advocate for youth. As a young naval officer right out of college, he served as a mentor for boys who were not much younger than he was. When given the opportunity, he would go on visits to orphanages and even got caught up in a game or two of cricket in Pakistan. (Cricket―similar to baseball in that there is a player throwing a ball at another player who tries to hit it with a bat. Similarities end there.)
Realizing his gift with young people, he continued to seek programs where he could make a difference. In one of his current roles, Tom serves as an "Ally" for Medina County’s Junior Leadership program. The Leadership teams participate in the United Way of Medina County’s Youth Ventures Program.
“An ‘Ally’ is a readily available resource for Junior Leadership teams to go to as they develop and implement projects that will positively impact the county,” explained Susan Vlcek, head of Junior Leadership. “This is a perfect fit for Tom because it is in his nature to support, encourage and empower everyone around him, whether working with local schools, United Way, or as a friend.”
She couldn’t be more correct. As a member of United Way’s Youth Coalition, Tom works with other members to go over proposals, conduct site visits, review performance reports, and make funding recommendations to the Community Impact Committee. I asked him what he liked about United Way’s approach to dealing with Medina County’s challenges.
“I like the changes I have seen in the organization. Cheryl (CEO of UWMC) is very business-like. She understands that the dollars raised have to be used efficiently and effectively. We use a ‘boots on the ground’ approach. Through surveys and metrics, we analyze what needs to be done and we find the most efficient way to do it.”
I asked Tom what he felt the biggest challenge is that Medina County faces. Like so many others, his concern is the high number of youth overdoses. “There is a greater and greater need for counselors in our schools,” he said. “Kids will often talk to other adults but not to their own parents.”
One of the most wonderful things about Tom’s volunteerism is that it is not a one-way street. “I had the most fun working on Unity in the Community,” he told me. Unity in the Community was held at the fairgrounds in 2015 help promote county unity among our youth. Activities included corn hole, a splatter sprint run, and even a battle of the bands. Both of Tom’s sons accompanied him and helped out that day. “I got Home Depot and Sherwin Williams to donate material for 20 corn hole games that the kids came together and assembled and then painted. It was my favorite project.”
I was about to finally let him go when he said, “You know what United Way’s problem is?”
“No,” I said, somewhat taken aback.
“Not enough people know what United Way does. You need to do a better job getting the word out about the good you do in the community.”
“Okay,” I said. I’ll put you on the spot. Give me an elevator pitch.”
It wasn’t fair, I know. But I think he did a pretty good job:
United Way solicits employers and individuals for money to make Medina County a better community to live in. They use the money in the best way possible by surveying the county to find out what issues are the most pressing. In this way they get the greatest return for their investment.
Senior Healthcare Representative for Pfizer