by ADAM GRUENEWALD
Despite receiving a significant individual honor, Peace Villa Housing Manager Brenda Schmitz attributed her success away from herself and instead on staff, residents and her family.
Schmitz, who was named the USDA Rural Development Minnesota Site Manager of the Year, said she was thankful most of them were their during a picnic celebration of her efforts in May.
In addition to attributing staff, it is Schmitz’ work ethic which has shown through.
A 1982 Glencoe High School graduate, She developed a strong work ethic while growing up as the eldest of three children of Bob and Judy Holmbeck in Glencoe.
“I think that’s the best place to grow up,” she said. “Wide open skies and animals and we lived seven miles out of town so if I wanted to hang out with my friend I had to bike seven miles and I did it, too.”
Shortly after graduation and bringing with her plenty of farming experience, she and her husband Scott bought a herd of about 40 purebred holstein cows from Canada and began farming.
They first farmed out of her dad’s barn near Glencoe and then out of a barn near Cologne and then moving to NYA in 1989 with about 110 cows.
“It was just a family farm,” she said. “Scott did all of the feeding and the crops and I did lot of the milking of the calves.”
Like growing up on a farm helped her, Schmitz said it also helped her kids, Ryan, 30, Jackie, 29, Jessica, 23, and Megan, 20.
“I think it gave them a very strong work ethic and it was a good place to raise them too,” she said.
Her experiences on the farm led to her becoming a 4-H leader with Youngwood 4-H Club.
“I always enjoy working with young people and inspiring them but as a family, our favorite thing to do was to show cattle,” she said. “The last heifer we sold placed in the world dairy expo so that was pretty exciting for us.”
As a 4-H leader, she helped with community service efforts at Peace Villa which led to her taking the housing manager position in 1999 on the recommendation of outgoing manager Sue Bau.
That year, the family sold their cows and Scott started Schmidt’s Custom Bagging, which does feed storage across the state.
Schmitz has certainly made an impact at Peace Villa, while working with Russ Monson and Jolene Barthel, her board of directors and the tenants.
“They pay me to do the books, however I love to have fun with them and do trips and outings,” she said. “Our tenants have become like an extended family to me.”
At her time at Peace Villa, which was built in 1978 and has 61 apartments that currently house 110 seniors, Schmitz has also seen several changes, both in care options and physical structures.
Her steadfast attitude has helped her and the development teams work for the community of NYA.
“I never look at things as challenges, I look at things to work through,” she said.
When she first started Peace Villa received a home grant for a remodeling project and also worked with the addition of The Harbor.
The Harbor was constructed in 2006 to accommodate those who needed additional care but may have been living at Peace Villa and wanted to stay in the community.
“When I came into Peace Villa the highest cares we had here in Norwood Young America were independent living,” she said. “When people needed care they had to move outside of our community and it was a very sad thing for me. People really like to stay where their family and their churches are. Since we built the Harbor, my job has become quite a bit easier and I have a place where people can go.”
Working with Harbor Manager Lori Hilgers and staff has been great for Schmitz has well.
“It’s nice to be on a campus and have the back and forth with other people,” she said.
Looking ahead, Schmitz is among the group working on the Haven project which will provide 12 memory care units and 27 units with additional staffing.
“I love the projects and I feel like we are staying on our mission of providing home for older adults,” she said. “Our team goal is to keep people within their community and cared for here.”
Reflecting on the award ceremony, Schmitz said it was humbling.
“I’ve been very blessed,” she said. “I think a lot of it is the people that I get to work for and with. To have a successful project, it takes a good team and I think we have a good team.”
Contact Adam Gruenewald at [email protected]