By Steve Ritchie
The town of Mount Angel is legendary for its strong volunteer ethic.
From Oktoberfest to youth sports to city government to the fire department to a host of non-profit and religious organizations, Mount Angel runs on the energy and commitment of its many dedicated volunteers.
Even in Mount Angel, though, someone like Ryan Kleinschmidt stands out.
Kleinschmidt, 40, is heavily involved in many different volunteer activities around the town he grew up in. He joined the Mount Angel Fire Department right out of high school in 1994 and, after moving up through the ranks over the past 23 years, he currently serves as Division Chief. Kleinschmidt is also in his third term on the Mount Angel Planning Commission, and serves as chair.
Perhaps his greatest impact, however, has been in his commitment to youth sports. For the past 10 years he has coached baseball, basketball and football at a variety of age levels, and took his 5th-6th grade baseball team all the way to the state championship. He also helped found the Mount Angel Youth Sports League in 2014, and was instrumental in bringing the Junior Baseball Organization to Mount Angel last year.
For the passion and energy he brings to his volunteer activities, he is being honored by the Mount Angel Chamber of Commerce as 2016 Volunteer of the Year.
“Mount Angel has a lot of great volunteers,” Kleinschmidt said. “That’s why I was so surprised about the award. I never looked at recognition being a part of it.”
Kleinschmidt is very quick to give the credit to his wife, Diana (Otte), who like Ryan is a JFK graduate and Mount Angel native.
“She’s the one who truly deserves the award,” Kleinschmidt said, “because I’m gone every night of the week, and she is doing all the other things that need to be done. She definitely deserves the credit. She makes it happen.”
He is also grateful to his employer, Northwest Natural Gas, for allowing and encouraging him – and its other employees – to make such a strong commitment to volunteer service. As a Field Operations Supervisor, he said his work day can “change with one phone call about an emergency situation – you have to be very flexible.
“But they have always been a big proponent of being involved in the community,” he noted.
Kleinschmidt loves being involved in sports and has really enjoyed coaching and watching his three children – Caitlyn, Dylan and Ethan – play on youth teams, and now on middle and high school teams.
“Athletics is not about winning and losing. It’s all about life lessons you learn while playing, and you learn from both wins and losses.”
The letter from Steve Engel nominating Kleinschmidt affirmed this same insight: “We all know that the youth are the future of this community, and through Ryan’s involvement, our youth are learning life lessons of honor, integrity, and sportsmanship which are going to translate into solid citizen community involvement as the kids grow up.”
A model of stability and consistency, Kleinschmidt hopes to keep going.
“As long as things in my life stay the same, I don’t see this (volunteer service) changing.”