by Jan Dumay
Special to The Leaven
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — When it comes to volunteering, Mark and Denise Schieber of Kansas City, Kansas, have always felt they get back much more than they’ve given — and they’ve given a lot.
But they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“We’re both farm kids,” said Denise in the couple’s cozy living room decked out for Christmas. “There was this expectation our parents put into us. Neither of us had a whole lot growing up, but you just dealt.”
“My mother died when I was 12,” she continued, “and we had people who just gave us stuff. And my dad was always appreciative of that. There were nine of us, from ages 3 to 20.
“Mark and I grew up happy, and, family-wise, you took care of each other. To pass that on is natural.”
And so the Schiebers’ three grown children have the volunteer spirit, too, even working in food kitchens while they were still in college. Their oldest son and his wife are foster parents.
The Schiebers, who will celebrate their 39th wedding anniversary on Jan. 3, have an impressive volunteer resume. They both are on the Development Advisory Board for the Benedictine Sisters of Mount St. Scholastica in Atchison.
Mark, 62, a retired accountant, is on the finance committee for Bishop Ward High School in Kansas City, Kansas, where his children attended, and served on the board 11 years. He served on the board of the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas for six years.
They have been active volunteers for their parish, Our Lady of Unity, as well, including serving as eucharistic ministers and lectors. Denise, 60, a retired preschool and kindergarten teacher, is on a committee that helps out at “St. Mary’s Food Kitchen,” preparing, transporting and serving food.
She is on the funeral committee, which plans and prepares luncheons for grieving families. Mark serves on the finance committee and has mowed the church’s lawn with the Knights of Columbus, which he has belonged to for 20 years.
In outreach efforts, both traveled twice to missions in Guatemala, in 2014 and 2016, to help with things like building stoves for the needy.
“We met wonderful people there, so thankful,” Denise said. “They just cook on floors and they have a lot of lung problems from just breathing in the smoke. People asked us, ‘You paid to go work somewhere?’ ‘And I say, ‘Well, yeah, we did.’ But the people were so appreciative. They had tears in their eyes thanking us for doing this stuff.”
“For us, it didn’t seem like that big a deal,” she added. “We get some of the same feelings when we help people here. The people have tears, hugging and thanking you for something we take for granted.”
One of their most rewarding volunteer gigs has been helping Sister Bridget Dickason, OSB, director of Keeler Women’s Center in Kansas City, Kansas, which has as its mission the empowerment of women in the urban core through education, advocacy, and personal and spiritual development.
One of the Schiebers’ duties is to help pick up and deliver furniture to the needy who are starting out with very little. Often, they don’t have anything — not even a chair or pots and pans.
Mark recalls one particular move that involved trying to get an 8-foot couch up 3-foot-wide stairs into a doorway with a sharp right angle.
“We got it in there,” he said with satisfaction. “But we told them we’re not coming back to take it out.”
Sister Bridget is certainly appreciative of the couple’s help.
“They’re wonderful people with generous hearts,” she said. “They’re very attuned to what Keeler’s needs are. They’ve always been so willing to help at the drop of a hat whenever I call.”
But things changed 18 months ago when Mark was diagnosed with appendix cancer, which they hoped was taken care of with surgery and chemotherapy. But it returned in November and moved to his lung cavity.
He’s had to curtail volunteering for Keeler for a while, although he’s still active on the board and at his parish. He’s hoping the latest rounds of chemotherapy will keep the cancer at bay.
His health challenges have brought home to him how blessed he has been — and how never to take anything for granted. When he helps people, he has one thing uppermost in mind.
“It’s important to look for the face of Jesus in everyone you serve,” he said.