Ehrhardt and the rest of the Milan Chamber of Commerce board took time at Monday’s annual banquet to recognize Suzie Schaeffer as the town’s 2018 Citizen of the Year.
“When thinking of one characteristic that distinguishes the Citizen of the Year from the rest of the community, it would be selflessness, and that describes Suzie Schaeffer,” Ehrhardt said.
An Edison High School graduate, Schaeffer went on to married Chris Schaeffer and chose to call Milan home. Together, they had seven children: Megan, Hannah, Kallie, Shelby, Gavin, Zoey and Aubri.
As her family began growing, Schaeffer opened an in-home day care. Over the next 29 years, she helped care for almost 200 children, most of whom grew up in Milan.
“Suzie volunteered to be a softball coach for her daughter Megan because her team was in need of one,” Ehrhardt said. “This was the start of what you will see as a common thread woven in Suzie’s life — finding out there’s a need for help and jumping at the chance to offer her assistance.”
When the Berlin-Milan Youth Sports League was in dire need of volunteers, she served as a member of that board in different capacities for the next 20 years.
When she found out her children’s 4-H club needed an adviser because others were retiring, Schaeffer stepped up then as well. She has been the head advisor for the Erie Elites for the past 15 years and counting. Ehrhardt said Schaeffer and her husband open their farm to families within the community who would like to take animal projects in 4-H and otherwise may never have the chance.
Schaeffer also joined the Milan Melon Festival Committee when there was a vacancy. She now serves as treasurer.
But perhaps one of the best acts of service she’s done in her life, along with the rest of her family, was opening her home and her heart to children.
“Through her day care, Suzie was introduced to a little girl who belonged in the foster care system,” Ehrhardt said.
“After bonding with this little girl and finding out how desperately foster homes were needed, she and her husband completed the certification to become foster parents in Erie County. Over the (past) six years, they have helped care for over 48 children, some of whom lived with them upwards of a year at a time.”
He added that the Schaeffers were recognized by Children Services as Foster Parents of the Year, a nomination they have received each of their six years fostering.
“Suzie’s willingness to help others is who she is as a person, but her doing so without any expectation of recognition is what makes her special,” Ehrhardt said.
Schaeffer was moved with emotion as she said a few words after accepting the award.
“I am beyond humbled to be honored for thiengs that I find fulfilling and enjoyable,” she said. “I take great pride in representing Milan.”
The chamber Business of the Year award was given “to recognize a local business that has made a significant contribution to the Milan community over a sustained period of time.”
Last year, the award went to the largest business in Erie County this year, though, it went to the smallest business, Milan’s Coffee Station, which employs just one owner, a part-time worker and some volunteers.
“I can assure you that the Chamber of Commerce considers this small business just as important to our community,” former chamber president Dan Frederick said when giving the presentation speech to owner Stacey Reer.
“We also appreciate the Coffee Station bringing a certain coolness town after introducing big city amenities such as installing our first drive thru window service, our first acoustic open mike night and being the only place in town where you can order a café mocha espresso nitro latte,” Frederick added.
Milan’s Coffee Station recently unveiled its Thomas Edison Signature line offering four new flavors; pure genius, high voltage, golden rush, and liquid ingenuity custom blends.
The Edison High School Interact Club was recognized with the Youth Service Award for its “service-above-self” mentality.
School superintendent and chamber board member Tom Roth said they earned the award “first, by their selfless acts to improve their school, community and the world.
“But more importantly, in my eyes, by setting an example for all of our younger children as to what life is truly about: service above self,” he said.
Ohio Chautauqua took the chamber’s Organization of the Year award after its five-day community event this summer.