Retired teachers Susan and Dick Schindel of Aurora have been so involved in community service over the many years that it truly puts most of us to shame.
But they will never tell you about their charitable service unless you ask, which I did on a recent visit with them. I was amazed to learn about all of their service, and a short enough article won’t tell the story of their dedication to our community.
Each grew up on the East Side of Aurora, and they met and started dating when they were students at East High School. They participated in extracurricular activities at school, with Dick graduating in 1966 and Susan in 1967.
Dick attended the University of Illinois, played football there for two years, and graduated in 1970. Susan attended Augustana College at the University of Illinois and graduated from Aurora University in 1972.
Both have become well known and respected educators in our community, with the majority of Dick’s service being at his East Aurora alma mater. He coached several sports at different levels in the East, including serving as the head football coach from 1983 to 1987. During his 34-year career, Susan served in Catholic schools and school districts from East Aurora and Oswego.
As a marketing education teacher and DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) advisor, Dick has been involved in coordinating the club’s many service projects.
“The beginning of my interest in community service came from school and DECA,” he said.
Marketing courses organized student volunteers to help with projects in the community and from there the Silver Cord Award was created. Students who completed at least 40 hours of service received the award, and it expanded to include students across the school.
“I was proud of those efforts,” Dick said.
Along with Fox Valley United Way’s Vicki Stull, as well as the school’s counselors and social workers, he helped establish the Forgotten Teens program to remember teenagers during the holidays. He also introduced the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program to the school, and under his leadership, DECA students were consistently involved in valuable community service.
Since retiring from East High in 2004, Dick’s community advancement activities have only increased.
He was a member of the Aurora Noon Lions Club and served as its president for a time. Among the club’s many charitable projects is the sponsorship of events for hearing-impaired children. He was president of the Aurora Area Retired Teachers Association, which in recent years has focused its fundraising on helping our town’s two pantries. He also served as a board member of the Aurora East Educational Foundation, which provides grants for teachers in District 131 and scholarships for East graduates.
After starting his business, Dick’s Mini-Donuts, in 1996, Dick used it to help schools and other organizations with fundraising. Few people know that he generously shares the profits from donut sales with the organizations that invite him to come.
Not being busy enough, he contributed to vacation relief through Fox Valley United Way and served as chairman of the board for a year.
By her own admission, Susan Schindel prefers to work behind the scenes to support her husband’s efforts. But his own service resume to all of us is very impressive.
She is president of the Aurora Area Retired Teachers Association membership and, through the organization, volunteers with her husband at Aurora’s two food pantries. She was a volunteer at the Dominican Literacy Center, which mentors and teaches one-on-one English to immigrant women. She has also trained as a CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate) volunteer to advocate for a child’s best interests in court cases.
As a couple, the Schindels recently established two scholarships through the Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley to help students pursue their goals. Together, they also volunteer in several of the ministries of Notre-Dame du Bon Conseil parish.
Like many servants I have met, I asked the Schindels “what motivates you” in your desire to help so many people.
“I love helping people, and many need help,” said Dick Schindel. “If I can help out through organizations I’m a member of, through my small business, or just as an individual, that’s what I love to do.
Susan Schindel has only a slightly different view.
“When I was 42, I faced a cancer diagnosis,” she said. “My surgeon was hoping I could hit a five-year survival mark. Now, 30 years later, this event has changed my life and helped me put my priorities in place. I faced another life-threatening event in 2008.
“We are all one, with the same desires and desires. Everything begins and ends with love, for ourselves and for others. When you can give freely, it soothes your soul.
Tom Strong is a freelance writer for The Beacon-News.