Volunteer work keeps this senior happy, fit

TGI Staff

Writer

KILAUEA — Retirement is a foreign concept to 75-year-old Kilauea

resident Donna Schulze.

Over the last 30 years, she worked as a teacher and

as an executive director of the YWCA.

Now she is retired and devoting more

time to her passion— volunteer work.

She helps at-risk youths stay out of

trouble, teaches youths how to swim and play soccer and works with her

husband of 28 years on community projects.

“Retirement means different

things to people,” Donna said. “To us, retirement means getting to do more of

the things we choose to do.”

Without volunteers, she says, many programs

sponsored by the government wouldn’t get off the ground.

She takes pride

in being a volunteer “Guardian Ad Litem” with the Family Court.

In that

capacity, she has been an advocate for abused and neglected youths.

She

works with social workers to help put broken families back together.

“I

have seen hundreds of kids, and they all need love,” she said. “I try to

provide that.”

Through the East Kaua’i Y’s Club, a Christian-based service

club to the YMCA, Donna and her husband, George, 78, work on community projects

like repairing damaged buildings.

Donna also serves on the board of

directors of the American Heart Association.

She coaches a track team in

Kilauea and teaches youths and adults how to swim at a pool in

Princeville.

“I have the time and ability to volunteer,” she said.

“And I only volunteer in places where I fit in.”

Kaua’i was the place

where she learned the importance of volunteerism, Donna said.

Prior to

coming to Kaua’i, she and her husband lived in Ohio, where he worked as a

machinist. One day they decided they wanted a new life.

“You might say we

got tired of shoveling snow,” George said. “We wanted some place with sunshine

and where it was warm. Kaua’i was it.”

They arrived on the island in 1972.

Donna had just graduated with a degree in physical education from Oregon

State, but couldn’t find work right away.

Her first job was as a volunteer

with the YMCA on Kaua’i. With the help of her husband, she was able to conduct

swimming classes in pools at condominiums he managed in Po’ipu and

Lihu’e.

She also served as the executive director of the YMCA from 1975

and 1980, becoming the first woman in the state to hold an executive position

with that organization.

For 25 years, she worked as a contract and

substitute school teacher with the state Department of Education. She taught

at Hanalei, Kalaheo, Wilcox and Kaua’i elementary schools and Kaua’i High

School.

When she wasn’t teaching or volunteering, she focused her

attention on running.

Her love for long-distance running dates back to the

early 1970s, when she attended Oregon State. She ran with men because there

were no running programs for women at the time.

Since 1978, Donna has run

in 200 races ranging from a few miles to 26 miles, including master races on

the Mainland and in Europe with her husband.

Between 1978 and 1984, she

and her husband ran in two Honolulu marathons, a marathon on Kaua’i and one

on Mau’i.

The couple is most proud of their participation in the 1978

Honolulu Marathon, their first.

“We went dancing after we finished,”

George said.

The couple has stayed in shape because they eat right, get

enough sleep and have deep religious convictions and a positive attitude about

life, Donna said.

“If you want your body to stay healthy, you have to make

it move. That is the key. “

Life also is rich and full because of their

strong commitment to each other, she said.

George, a bus driver for the

last 19 years, and Donna had children from previous marriages. Together, they

have seven grown children, 15 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

“We have a very good life together,” Donna said. “The important thing is that

we care for each other and understand each other’s needs.”

Without her

husband’s support, she said she probably couldn’t be as active in her volunteer

work as she is.

Volunteering on Kaua’i is easy because the island ” is a

wonderful place” and “because the people here are wonderful,” she

said.

What plans do the Schulzes have for the future?

“What else?

Volunteering,” Donna said.

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