For the last two years, Talking GOOD has featured a variety of individuals, passionate about a great many causes. I am proud to say, that this week's interviewee, introduces us to a completely new genre on the cause spectrum -- dachshund rescue to be specific. Sharon Schemel, sits on the Board of Directors for Coast to Coast Dachshund Rescue (CCDR), a registered 501(c)(3) all-volunteer national charity (check out their PSA at the bottom of this post). Since 2004, she has been super-active in the organization, and for a while, she was attending over 30 fundraising/promotional events per year -- in her limited free time that is. Yes, dachshunds might be her passion, but they don't exactly pay the bills. By day, Sharon Schemel is an executive assistant at Owings Mills, MD-based Employment Background Investigations, Inc. According to Sharon: "the majority of my time off is taken to support CCDR-related activities. EBI has been so flexible in helping me to pursue my passion."
Sharon's love for dachshunds comes from growing up with one. Her grandfather got his first dachshund in the 1920’s, and various family members kept the tradition alive through the decades. After adopting her third dachshund from CCDR, Sharon was inspired to build upon her childhood love, joining the organization and making a difference both for the breed and the people looking to adopt them.
A 2011 move from NJ to Southern PA has forced Sharon to scale back on her volunteer efforts, however she remains quite active, leading PR and fundraising efforts in the Mid-Atlantic region. Just last month, CCDR hosted a major fundraising event in Bel Air, MD, and they even were able to bring in this special celebrity attendee. Congratulations Sharon on knowing your purpose and acting upon it (and thanks for answering our questions).
1. IN JUST ONE SENTENCE, WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE? To be as good of a person as my dog thinks I am.
2. WHAT DO YOU GET FROM GIVING? I am drawn to causes that are either animal-, environment-, or health-related, and I get satisfaction in helping others who CANNOT help themselves. Supporting others or things that have no control over what is happening to them is something that contributes to my happiness and fuels my positive outlook, and it continually motivates me to find different ways that I can give. I enjoy giving. Interacting with others on common causes is uplifting.
3. HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR PHILANTHROPY WITH ALL OF LIFE’S OTHER STUFF? I definitely have to pick my shots. There are many times when I cannot do as much as I would like to, on both the charitable and personal fronts. The house may not be as clean and organized as I’d like, or there may be rescue events that I won't be able to attend. It's important to realize that I have limits and that compromise is okay. I’m not helping anyone if I burn myself out. It really helps to have the support of family and friends, and even the flexibility at work to use PTO days to attend to philanthropic commitments. With my recent move from NJ to PA, I've had to downshift my involvement with Coast to Coast Dachshund Rescue (CCDR). I felt guilty that I wasn’t able to contribute as much time, and money as before. But I believe that philanthropy is a mindset, so I am always looking for ways to make a difference and I know that I should feel good about that alone. Even if I can’t attend 30+ rescue awareness events a year, I can still uphold my officer and Board duties and can even do simple things like using Goodsearch.com for all my internet searches (which earns charitable organizations a penny per search), and I still feel like I’m making a difference.
4. WHO WOULD PLAY YOU IN A MOVIE ABOUT YOUR LIFE? WHY? I don’t think a movie about my life would be interesting enough to make, so whoever played me would have to be a riveting actress to make it remotely entertaining. I think Meryl Streep fully embraces her characters and adds all sorts of dimensions to her roles, and, like me, she seems soft-spoken, so perhaps she’s a viable choice.
5. WHO IS A LIVING HERO AND WHAT WOULD YOU ASK THEM IF GIVEN THE CHANCE? Now I'm stumped. Growing up and throughout my life, I never really identified any heroes. I never idolized others or strove to be like others. On the flip side, I tended to look for negative qualities in others and identified what I DIDN’T want to be like, and that’s how I molded my personality.
6. WHAT IS A BURNING QUESTION THAT YOU HAVE FOR THIS COMMUNITY? What is one thing that you do really well that you could translate into a charitable act?
7. WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK BE? "Perfectly Imperfect." While everyone was diving into Feng Shui in the 90’s, I stumbled upon another East Asian concept that truly embodies how I feel about things. In an airplane magazine, I found a blurb about wabi-sabi, the Japanese art of finding beauty in imperfection. For me, it’s finding joy in simple pleasures and accepting flaws that add character or stir memories. One of the main reasons animal rescue groups exist is because people dispose of animals who in their eyes are less than perfect, which is sad because many "imperfections" in pets can be improved through proper training. The book title also speaks to the many dualities in my personality. For example, I'm a planner, but I also enjoy spontaneity. My profession demands that I'm organized and detail-oriented, but in my personal life I don’t have things quite as orderly, and I’m always late sending things out (like RSVPs, bills and greeting cards). I think I have a great sense of humor, but I can’t tell a joke to save my life. I could go on and on, but usually I tend to be brief.
8. TELL US SOMETHING YOU RARELY SHARE IN PUBLIC? Although I feel comfortable speaking about prepared or familiar topics and can speak or sing in front of hundreds of people, I tend to be more of an introvert in public. So if you catch me on the fly and I’m short with an answer or soft-spoken on a spontaneous response, I’m not being a snob or uninterested, I’m just shy.
9. WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS WHO ASPIRE TO BE CITIZEN PHILANTHROPISTS?
- Find something you are passionate about and follow that interest. You have to believe in a cause yourself in order to be impactful and to be a credible source.
- Be passionate, but not overzealous. Although YOU may be passionate about your cause, remember that not everyone will have the same level of interest in your cause or even in giving.
- Every little bit counts. No gesture of good will is insignificant, whether it is money or time donated, or even words of encouragement for a cause. No matter how much or how little, it makes a difference.
- Don’t get discouraged (keep my second tip in mind). While you may not motivate everyone to respond to your cause, you never know who you’re going to meet who could become the greatest champion or supporter of your cause in the long-run.
10. WHAT QUESTION DO YOU WISH I HAD ASKED, AND WHAT IS THE ANSWER? What other influences have you had that encouraged or inspired you in becoming a citizen philanthropist? I guess this would be the “thank-you” part of my acceptance speech for my award-winning movie starring Meryl Streep (HA!). My mother has always loved nature and animals, so I think my passion for those causes was influenced by her compassion in those areas. Volunteerism was encouraged by teachers in middle and high school, and mostly I got involved with environmental causes back then. In college, I joined the Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA) sorority, and we supported numerous service projects, mostly health-related and humanitarian causes. My involvement with ZTA also extended beyond college through involvement in an alumnae chapter, where we continued to support numerous causes, with our main philanthropy being Breast Cancer Awareness. And luckily, the two main employers in my life (Gap, Inc and Employment Background Investigations, Inc) have been strongly service-oriented, so I have been able to become involved in additional charitable causes through work. Having inspiration and encouragement along the way has been important to sustaining my charitable involvements.