Habitat for Humanity honors local man with Lifetime Achievement award
Written by BECCA WHITNALL Photo by RICHARD GILLARD
Tim Schutz ministers to the poor armed with a hammer.
For more than a decade, the North Ranch resident has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, building houses for the less fortunate, spending at least one day a week covered in sawdust, paint splatters and garden mulch.
In April, he was honored for his work with the organization with a lifetime achievement award, one of two given nationally each year.
“It’s a little embarrassing because there are so many people who have been a part of this and the church, St. Max, deserves a lot of credit,” he says, referring to a ministry he helped start at his church, St. Maximillian Kolbe Catholic Church in Westlake Village.
Tim, 76, credits his wife, Cathy, for getting him started with Habitat after he retired from a career as a sales manager.
“Essentially, I retired and needed something to do. Specifically, I think my wife told me I needed to do something.”
These days, Tim has a group of fellow retirees he works with weekly. The Wednesday crew, as he calls them, is made of men in similar situations. They spend the day volleying jokes and giving one another a hard time. “But we end up doing a good job,” he says.
Tim wasn’t a pro when he began. He had attended a meeting for Habitat for Humanity and learned about the nonprofit Christian organization’s mission of constructing affordable homes for families with limited resources. That, and his wife’s not-so-subtle encouragement, was the impetus he needed to start volunteering.
Though he had some casual home repair experience, he says that like the majority of volunteers he runs into at Habitat work sites, he had a lot to learn.
Tim stayed on the job and continued to learn. Soon he had a whole group of people from the church joining him on project workdays via Habitat to the Max, the ministry he helped found at the church along with fellow parishioners Charlie Blakelock and Maureen Hamilton.
But Tim wanted to do more.
“Our founding pastor asked Tim one day, ‘What’s your vision for this ministry?’” recalls Frank Blum, current chair of the ministry and board member of Habitat for Humanity of Ventura County.
Tim told Father Peter O’Reilly he wanted the ministry to sponsor a Habitat house.
“It’s usually churches that sponsor homes and I thought it would be a nice thing if the church I go to would sponsor one and the priest agreed,” Tim explains.
Sponsorship money pays for building materials and infrastructure while labor is generally donated.
According to Blum, Father Peter told Schutz he was retiring in six months and expected him to do something about it before he retired.
With that, the fundraising arm of the ministry was born. Annually, Habitat to the Max sponsors a dinner to raise money for the organization. This year, the May 2 event grossed $90,000, enough to fund the ministry’s seventh home.
“By the end of the year, they’ll cross the million-dollar mark at St. Max,” says Steve Dwyer, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Ventura County.
“I know Tim will tell you it’s very important the church receives credit, but his individual work deserves credit and we’re honored he’s receiving the award.”
The Clive Rainey Lifetime Achievement Award is named for Habitat’s first volunteer and recognizes individuals for their exceptional and sustained accomplishments to advance the mission of Habitat for Humanity.
But awards are not what keep Tim Schutz going. Instead, it’s knowing he’s making a difference.
“When you see a family that’s been living in a garage or substandard housing, it’s very touching,” he says.
Many of the families Tim helped early on had children that they’ve now been able to send off to college. One of those children has just earned a doctorate.
“When you have your housing taken care of, you can focus on the other important things,” Tim explains. “Habitat doesn’t just help get people in a house; it helps families succeed.”