ALEXANDRIA, Va.April 14, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With much appreciation and gratitude for the contributions of 260,000 Catholic Charities volunteers nationwide, CCUSA announces its 2011 Volunteer of the Year Award winner: Mike Schuette of Breese, IL.
For more than 15 years, Mike has supported the work of Catholic Charities of Southern Illinois. During the last ten years, he served as chair of the CCSIL Board and for the last 15 years as the chair of Poverty Services, a volunteer-run agency of CCSIL which addresses the root causes of poverty by helping people overcome barriers to gainful employment.
"Congratulations to Mike Schuette! We thank you, Mike, for the giving of your time and energy and for caring about people who are often forgotten in our society today," said Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA. "We are so blessed to have you and others like you in our midst. You inspire and challenge us."
Mike decided to get involved helping others as a teenager when his best friend unexpectedly died. "I learned that life could suddenly end and you wouldn't be able to do all the things you could have done. That motivated me."
In his early 20s, Mike started teaching prison inmates to read. A shockingly high number of them did not know how to read well or at all. "It was really neat to see somebody reading and comprehending for the first time. You could see the excitement in their eyes as they realized what a big thing they had accomplished. You felt so good for them."
After more than 30 years of volunteer literacy efforts, Mike brought his passion for helping inmates learn to read to his volunteer work for Catholic Charities of Southern Illinois. As volunteer chair, he partnered Poverty Services with a statewide group to lobby state representatives for legislation that required inmate literacy classes. Then with the help of legislators and Kaskaskia College, Mike established an incentive-paid inmate tutoring position at Illinois Correctional Centers. In Mike's "Inmates Helping Inmates" program, prison authorities select the inmates to be trained by the community college as peer-to-peer reading tutors/teacher aides of illiterate inmate students. The program has been a phenomenal success, with reading improvement greatly increased among thousands of inmates.
To follow up on inmates leaving correctional facilities, Mike is partnering Poverty Services with Catholic Charities' St. Vincent de Paul Society, DOC Parole, Life Skills, and other referral service agencies to develop a program to extend "Inmates Helping Inmates" participants literacy classes toward GED and college as inmates re-enter society. The follow-up program also assesses for mental illness, substance abuse, social needs, and will provide each individual with contact information to locate employment and needed resources.
Schuette has also led Poverty Services in developing programs and resources to help clients find and keep employment, such as pre-employment training, transportation assistance, and business attire assistance.
After his first five years as chair of Poverty Services, Mike increased his volunteer work to serve as chair of the CCSIL Board. During his time as board chair, he worked on many committees, notably those working to raise funds for the agency, improve communications with parishes throughout the diocese, and advocate for the agency to the community and lawmakers. For over a year, Mike also served on the Diocese of Belleville's Bishop's Task Force to reorganize CCSIL to find a way for it to function with limited or no funding.
For Mike, serving others is a chance to make the world a better place. "If you are going to live here, take advantage of opportunities to serve."
Mike Schuette will be honored and receive the 2011 Volunteer of the Year Award at Catholic Charities USA's Annual Gathering and Poverty Summit, September 18-21, in Ft. Worth, Texas. The Volunteer of the Year Award recognizes not only the 2011 winner, but also the invaluable contributions and work of all Catholic Charities volunteers. Volunteers nationwide are the backbone of the Catholic Charities movement. Collectively, local Catholic Charities rely on more than 260,000 volunteers each year to serve more than 9 million people of all faiths and diverse needs.
Catholic Charities USA's members provide help and create hope for more than 9 million people a year regardless of religious, social, or economic backgrounds. For almost 300 years, Catholic Charities agencies have worked to reduce poverty by providing a myriad of vital services in their communities, ranging from health care and job training to food and housing. In 2010, Catholic Charities USA celebrated its centennial anniversary and introduced new federal legislation – the National Opportunity and Community Renewal Act (NOCRA) – to transform the nation's approach to poverty.