Samantha Schaedler could easily be called the face of volunteerism in the Chagrin Valley.
When there is a drive-by birthday parade during the coronavirus pandemic, chances are she was involved. When Halloween candy was sent to active military members overseas, she was a likely coordinator. When almost 100 people volunteer at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, she was the mastermind behind the operation.
Mrs. Schaedler, 51, of Bainbridge has a hand in endless projects to benefit people in need.
Her volunteer projects have been going on for the past 10 years. Mrs. Schaedler said that it is important to support the troops and has reached out to support veterans.
She is married to Rich Schaedler and they have three sons, Nathan, 16, Luke, 14, and Jack, 12. The volunteer projects teach valuable life lessons to her sons, she said.
“I always felt like that was important,” Mrs. Schaedler said. “I wanted to instill that respect in my boys. Raising three boys can be a talent. You want to create educational opportunities for them and show them how to respect people.”
Aside from her time spent spreading cheer throughout the Chagrin Valley, Mrs. Schaedler is an eighth-grade social studies teacher for the Orange City School District. She has been a teacher for 27 years.
Her ideas initially develop from an interaction with someone else, a new connection in her life. Mrs. Schaedler said that she often meets people who are involved with a charitable organization or mention people in need at their job. Somehow, she said, the conversation goes to what people need. She always has a new idea in mind, and her family and friends are there for support.
“I live in Bainbridge and this community is supportive,” she said. “I have a great group of friends. I’ll come up with a new idea and they’re always ready to support it.”
The list of projects that Mrs. Schaedler has completed is a mile long. She only takes credit for organizing the volunteers. She said that people naturally want to do good things for their community and help people in need but might not know where to go and how to get started. That is where Mrs. Schaedler comes in – the point person for community service.
Her projects span a variety of causes. She planned two nights of volunteering with about 90 people total at the Greater Cleveland Food Bank.
She recalled meeting a woman from MetroHealth System, who said children in the hospital would like to have books to read during their stay and take home with them. Mrs. Schaedler responded by finding and donating gently used children’s books for the hospital.
As soon as she posts an idea on her Facebook page, the donations come flooding in. In fact, she keeps a collection container at the end of her driveway.
One celebration that has come out of the pandemic is the drive-by birthday parades. Mrs. Schaedler drove by a house with one of her sons in the spring because his friend had a birthday. She ended up creating a shared Google Doc with the fire departments in Bainbridge, Aurora, Solon, Macedonia and Auburn so the fire trucks could make appearances in the birthday parades.
So far, Mrs. Schaedler has coordinated 65 parades. She has a group of friends that she calls “back-up moms” who help her out with projects such as drive-by parades that can number as many as four a day.
“You just need to be outgoing enough to make that first call,” Mrs. Schaedler said of planning the parades with local fire departments. “Some were for adults. We did a high school graduation, too. They just brought joy to everyone.”
She said that there is no particular allegiance to a cause that she wants to support. Mrs. Schaedler said that she meets someone new, builds a relationship and finds out how she can support their needs.
“That was another lesson to show my sons,” she said. “It’s one thing to write a check and donate money, but what else can you do to make a bigger impact?”
Mrs. Schaedler said that it is nice to see a difference in the community based on the work that she and her volunteers have completed. Last year, she and a friend went to St. Philomena Church in East Cleveland to drop off handmade knitted hats for homeless people. As they were driving home, they saw people on the streets wearing the hats. Mrs. Schaedler said that it was a “meaningful moment.”
After 10 years of coordinating volunteer activities, she said close friends and family know what is coming next. Every October she usually collects Halloween candy to send to troops overseas. But this year, there was a different plan. Mrs. Schaedler teamed up with friends to send care packages to alumni in the military from Orange, Chagrin Falls and Kenston school districts. Her November project is collecting hats and coats for people in need.
“You want to pass on kindness, respect and care for others. Maybe we’re missing that today with so much unrest and unhappiness,” Mrs. Schaedler said. “We should bring back respect and kindness. It boils down to caring about other people. That’s a good life lesson and that’s not something taught in school or at home.”
The greatest reward, Mrs. Schaedler said, is seeing someone’s joy in response to an act of kindness.