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Shawano Area Community Foundation recognizes volunteers

 Teacher Lynn Schaal spends her weekends helping Boy Scouts earn their merit badges in Bonduel. She is one of four Volunteer Award winners we’re featuring from the Shawano Area Community Foundation, our affiliate.

By Lee Pulaski, Shawano Leader

Lynn Schaal spends all day in a classroom setting, teaching and shaping young minds. That teaching instinct doesn’t end when the school day is done, however. She volunteers her time after hours to help area youth achieve great things through the Boy Scouts, teaching them how to earn the merit badges they prize.

Because of her tireless effort to initiate the learning process wherever she goes, Schaal has earned the Shawano Area Community Foundation’s Bill Mielke Educator of the Year Award. The award is funded each year through the Mielke Family Foundation.

Brian Cairns, who nominated Schaal for the honor, wrote in his letter that the desire to help the Boy Scouts learn what they needed to do to earn their badges came from a place of frustration, when she saw her own son, Aaron, struggle to get those badges.

“He was unable to find anyone to help him with some of the required badges,” Cairns wrote. “A chance discussion by myself and other parents put Lynn into action mode. We said, ‘Why don’t you teach these kids?’ She thought about it and said, ‘Why not?’”

Schaal said she attended a meeting for Boy Scouts Troop 24 in Bonduel, and she learned that it was lacking in merit badge counselors, parents and other adults who could show the boys what to do in order to achieve proficiency in some of the more than 130 badges available. She noted that it was an easier task than going camping with the troop, but the only downside was that she could only be a counselor for seven proficiency areas.

“I decided that, if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it for badges that they’re required to have to be an Eagle Scout,” Schaal said. “That just made the most sense.”

Schaal said she kept going because her son said he wanted to continue in Boy Scouts. She always left the option open that, if he wanted to leave because it wasn’t fun anymore, she would stop, as well. Aaron is a senior at Bonduel High School, and he kept going. So did Schaal.

Having Schaal locally helped to cut down on parents’ costs. Before Schaal became a counselor, scouts would often have to travel to Fox Valley Technical College for clinics at a cost of $20 per participant. When Schaal started holding Saturday clinics closer to home, the boys could spend more time on their badges and less time in the car traveling.

Getting help from regional Boy Scouts organizations allowed Schaal to go beyond helping the scouts in Bonduel to achieve. According to Cairns, scouts come from Sheboygan, Milwaukee, even as far away as Chicago to learn from Schaal and come one step closer to earning their merit badges.

Photo by Curt Knoke

“We are in our fifth year now, and she has helped well over 1,000 scouts accomplish badges they need if they are to become Eagle Scouts,” Cairns wrote. “She has also gone above and beyond and took many Sunday nights to help a few of our own Bonduel Troop 24 scouts earn the Boy Scouts Religious Emblem. The purpose is to encourage youth and adults to grow stronger in their faith as part of their scouting experience.”

Schaal was surprised at how much interest her clinics generated. “We thought that maybe we’d get some Boy Scouts from Shawano, Boy Scouts from Gillett, Pulaski and the surrounding area,” Schaal said.

Her first clinic was a citizenship clinic, which brought out 25 scouts, including some from Appleton and Green Bay. The next one doubled the attendance. “It was unbelievable to me, and it was because these boys could not find a merit badge counselor,” Schaal said. “There was not a person stepping up to be that counselor, so that was stopping them from getting Eagle Scout rank.”

Besides her work in the Boy Scouts, Schaal teaches religious classes at St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church, is a Eucharistic minister, and volunteers on the parish council. She also gives time to the Bonduel Booster Club and the Wisconsin Association of Mathematics Teacher Educators. When she’s not doing any of those things, she’s using her skills as Department of Public Instruction-certified math coach and works with other school districts to improve their math programs.

“We are fortunate to have her be a part of our community and all benefit from her giving heart and the volunteering work she does,” Cairns wrote.

The volunteer award comes with a $1,000 prize that’s given to the organization of the winner’s choice. Schaal plans to give the money to her church, St. Martin, for use in its Helping Hands Food Pantry, noting that the pantry is second in Shawano County for helping those in need, right behind the county’s social services.

Schaal’s son achieved his Eagle Scout rank in 2017. Even though he is graduating out of the program, Schaal plans to continue to offer her help to the Boy Scouts. “I really enjoy doing it,” Schaal said. “A lot of it’s done on a Saturday, so you have to prepare, and you’re exhausted.”

“We have volunteers that help. So as long as we have that help, I will continue to do it,” she continued. “As long as there’s that need, I will continue to do it.”

Our affiliate, the Shawano Area Community Foundation, in conjunction with The Shawano Leader, has staged a Celebration of Giving Volunteer of the Year promotion for the last 10 years. Each year select area volunteers are presented $1,000 cash grants for their efforts to improve the quality of life in the Wolf River Region. The awards, sponsored by area businesses, are then reinvested back into area nonprofit organizations at the direction of the award winners. This is the first in a series profiling outstanding volunteers in the community.

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