To do unto others as you would have done unto you is the rhythm Karon Schmidt fashions her life after. People are her priority and her dedication to them led to her becoming this year’s Citizen of the Year in Hinckley.
“I don’t know how deserving I am of it, but here I am,” she said of the honor.
Citizen of the Year was established by Betty Miller, who was director of the Chamber of Commerce. “While I was the director, we implemented the Citizen of the Year to honor some people like Karon. …” Miller continued, “A lot of the citizens of the community do not realize all what these people do.”
Miller nominated Karen for Citizen of the Year because Karon “was one of those who I worked with who made a big impression on me.” Karon’s work the the Corn and Clover Carnival stuck with Miller, especially her dedication to organizing the parade. Not only that, but she knew of Karon’s commitment to serving in her church.
From teaching Sunday school to leading confirmation classes and participating in the choir, Karon doesn’t shy away from keeping active. She also holds a job down at Daggett’s (“I love the people”), and, during the spring and summer, she works the concession stand at Knights’ games. During the school year, she attends the Jaguars’ games as well, usually rooting for a niece or nephew but also going to support the community. Volleyball, basketball, hockey, baseball … she’s a faithful attendee, but when it comes to football, “I’m a little bit of a wimp. I don’t like the cold weather.”
Family, friends and her involvement at church are all motivators for Karon. They’re important to her. “That’s who I am,” she said. “I like to know people. I like to take part of their lives.”
The work she does in the community is a testament to that love. For some 20 years, Karon was part of the Chamber of Commerce. Her work as the secretary got her heavily involved with the Corn and Clover parade. It’s only been within the last few years she’s stepped back from those responsibilities. She admitted to missing it sometimes, but there’s a certain freedom associated with being able to simply watch the parade now instead of organizing it.
For the last three years, Karon has also served on the Patient Family Advisory Council organized by FirstLight Health System. It’s an advocacy group at its core, working to improve the communication lines between the patient, family, doctor and pharmacy. The council strives to create “better quality of care at the hospital,” Karon said.
“Some people don’t advocate for themselves … (the council) helps them get onboard.”
Loving people influenced Karon to become a foster parent, a role she took on for 10 years. Friends of Karon’s put the idea in her, knowing that Karon could provide some of the love and stability many of those children are in search of. Some people said, “Karon, what are you doing?” But she wanted to try.
Now she’s called “grandma,” though she’s had no biological children of her own. The sweet title was given to her by a child of a foster daughter who has remained close to Karon through the years. Being called grandma is “the best,” Karon beamed.
Hinckley has been Karon’s home her whole life, save a one year stint in the Twin Cities out of high school. She loves living in a small town, she said. The people and relationships here, which are so important to her, make living in Hinckley a pleasure. A number of people have influenced her here — from employers and teachers to older people in the community, Karon learns from all.
She’s happy to be Citizen of the Year and called it “exciting” and “an honor.” But, she said, “There are some other people who I think are more worthy of it.”
Miller commented, “People like Karon are the ones where you can’t say thank you enough for all they do for the community. She seemed to have fun with what she was doing and didn’t expect anything in return.”
Now, though, the community of Hinckley does have the chance to say thank you to Karon for all her past work and the work she continues to do. Karon will be honored as Citizen of the Year on Thursday, Dec. 7, at the Chamber’s Santa Days dinner. Tickets are available for purchase at the Chamber office and at the door for $30.