MARSHALL - It was an honor, Craig Schafer said. But as much as he was happy to accept it, he was also staying thankful.
In a ceremony last week, Schafer was named the recipient of the Marshall Sunrise Rotary's Citizen of the Year Award. The award is given to a non-Rotarian who has shown outstanding community service.
"I really am grateful," Schafer said of receiving the award. "I could never have dreamt that."
Photo by Deb Gau
While sitting at Marshall’s Memorial Park, Craig Schafer said he was just one of a number of people who helped make the park what it is today, although it was Schafer himself who hauled the World Trade Center beam to Marshall. The beam, salvaged from the wreckage left behind after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, is the centerpiece of the park.
Sunrise Rotary President Mike Rich said the club has named a Citizen of the Year for about five years now. The awards are presented at the club's annual Foundation Dinner.
"We try to find people who just seem to always be there," contributing to the community, Rich said.
Schafer definitely fit the profile.
Schafer's work in bringing back the section of beam from the World Trade Center that became the center of Marshall's 9/11 Memorial "was kind of the thing that drew our attention," Rich said. However, Schafer has also been active in the Marshall community for more than 20 years, working in disaster-response training and serving on the local Red Cross Board of Directors.
Even before moving to Marshall, Schafer was active in his community, Rich said. Schafer was a firefighter, first responder and a member of the Stewart (Minn.) School Board.
"He's just a good guy who's always there for the community," Rich said.
Schafer said he first got the news the weekend before the award ceremony, while he was doing some work in his garage.
"My wife called me from the house," Schafer said, and told him he had a call from a member of the Rotary. "She said he had something to tell me that I was going to be excited to hear."
The news certainly was exciting - Schafer said he's keeping the award in a place of honor at his house. But at the same time, he was keeping things in perspective. Schafer said he couldn't take credit for how the 9/11 memorial or Memorial Park turned out. Bringing the World Trade Center beam back to Marshall was the seed of an idea, he said.
"But I'm not the one who did the nurturing," Schafer said. He added that his contribution was small compared to that of community members, the memorial's designer, and all the people who helped make the memorial possible. "It certainly isn't about me."
Schafer said he's tried his best to give back to his home community, for several reasons. To start with, it was something his father taught him.
"My dad taught us there's the complainers, and there's the doers. He always said he hoped he didn't raise a family of complainers," Schafer said.
Schafer said he also remembered struggling to make ends meet when he and his wife Deb were first married, and wanting to give back to the community when he was able. Schafer said on one level, he also wanted to give back to the community because he felt guilty about never having served in the military.
"There was a hole that needed to be filled," Schafer said. Despite the ways he's been able to serve, he said, "It wasn't a sacrifice. There are a lot of people who have done things way more substantial."
Schafer said he definitely wants to keep contributing to his community, whether through volunteer work or even his job with the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency - that's about public service, too, he said. And after his experiences meeting with Rotary members, he's thinking about joining the club. It could be another way to do something positive, he said.
"Life is not about accumulating things. It's about the things you leave behind," Schafer said.