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St. Vincent volunteer receives community award

Known for his compassion toward the most vulnerable, Joe Schudawa of St. Vincent de Paul was honored Wednesday with the county’s Community Service Award for January by the Jackson County Board of Commissioners.

The leader of social services at the all-volunteer organization, Schudawa was nominated by Father Jim Clifford.

“It is such a joy, and I’m humbled to work with Joe. Joe is an example to me of all the things that I’m supposed to preach about — and he lives and exemplifies day in and day out,” Clifford said.

Clifford said Schudawa is dedicated to the poor and vulnerable, never judges anyone and is always there to go an extra step to help one more person.

“He really encourages us as volunteers to grow in our vision and our mission toward the poor and the vulnerable and all the people that we truly have a privilege to serve,” Clifford said.

Schudawa said he couldn’t do his work without the teamwork of everyone who helps at St. Vincent de Paul.

“This whole thing isn’t about me. It’s about the crew we have. We have just an amazing group of people,” he said.

With Jackson County hit by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and September wildfires, the organization is doing more than ever to help those in need.

Among other tasks, St. Vincent has taken on distribution of government-funded COVID-19 rent and utility aid and helped shelter and feed fire survivors whose homes were destroyed.

Its regular work includes providing food and running a fundraising thrift store, an urban rest stop with showers and laundry facilities, emergency shelter and social services.

Schudawa said it’s very gratifying to see how the community came together in unprecedented ways to help starting in 2020.

“It’s something we by ourselves couldn’t have ever done. It took the whole community to get together and to do these things. And it’s still going on, by the way. We’re not done. Well, we’re never done. The last year was exceptional,” he said.

In addition to meeting with clients, Schudawa works behind the scenes to make sure necessary funds are available to provide social services. He puts together detailed reports and supervises Community Development Block Grant funds from the city of Medford, which help prevent vulnerable families and individuals from becoming homeless.

He developed an additional housing program to help more people stay off the streets, according to Clifford.

Helping the most vulnerable can be difficult and sometimes discouraging work, but Schudawa continually encourages the volunteers and shows wisdom, compassion and love, Clifford said.

Schudawa is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force and served for 30 years, both on active duty and in the reserves.

“Thank you so much for your service — and for your service to our country as well. It means so much,” Jackson County Commissioner Colleen Roberts told Schudawa during a videoconference presentation of the Community Service Award.

Jackson County Commissioner Dave Dotterrer said the Rogue Valley needs volunteers like Schudawa.

“In our community, organizations like yours and what you do for our community are absolutely crucial,” he said.

Schudawa was married for 56 years to his wife, Gloria Schudawa, who passed away in 2014. She was also a volunteer with St. Vincent de Paul.

The pair met while flying over the North Pole en route to Europe. Gloria Schudawa was taking a vacation from her job as a stewardess, and Joe Schudawa was traveling to see his parents after a tour of duty in Korea.

The couple raised two daughters and have three grandchildren, according to information provided by Clifford.

Joe Schudawa has served the Knights of Columbus Council in Portland and the Knights of Columbus Council in Central Point.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.

Community Service Award recipient Joe Schudawa of St. Vincent de Paul said it’s very gratifying to see how the community came together in unprecedented ways to help starting in 2020. (Submitted photo)