Cindy & Jerry Schultz: why we volunteer

Couple who walked across the U.S. shares what keeps them on the right track

Thrivent members and Thrivent Builds volunteers Jerry and Cindy Schultz are dedicated to giving back.

In 1996, Cindy and Jerry Schultz walked 3,000 miles across the U.S to raise money and awareness for Habitat for Humanity International and the need for affordable housing in the U.S. They later authored "Sole Mates: The True Story of One Couple's Walk across America." We contacted them to find out what keeps them "on the right track."

What inspired you to walk across the U.S.?

In its earlier years, Habitat did a number of walks to raise awareness. The inspiration for our walk across America came from multiple sources including books we read about other peoples' walks. Then, in 1988, we joined a portion of a 1,200 mile Habitat for Humanity walk down the east coast for three weeks and three hundred miles. We later did a walk with them from Pasadena, California, to Tijuana, Mexico.

How do you currently volunteer?

We have been volunteers with Habitat for Humanity for 30 years. Presently we lead Thrivent Build teams in the U.S. or abroad once or twice a year and strive to have 16 people on each team.

We also volunteer at the local food bank and help fellow church members cook meals at the Salvation Army kitchen for homeless people.

Why have you chosen to make volunteering a priority in your lives, and how do you make time for it?

Making it a priority has been who we are during our 53 years of marriage. We want our children and grandchildren to be inspired to volunteer. We also participated in groups they were involved in: Cub Scouts, baseball teams, school PTAs, church youth groups and 4-H.

Tell us about a time you felt you received more than you gave.

We have been volunteers on 11 Habitat for Humanity Jimmy and Roslyn Carter Work Projects and numerous other Habitat for Humanity builds, as well as having done long-distance walks with Habitat. During all of these volunteer experiences we have received far more than we have given.

It's inspiring to be volunteers, no matter what the involvement. When we leave a Habitat build site, we are never the same as when we arrived. Often our hearts are broken by seeing what little we have done and how much more is needed. However, working with the families is always rewarding – to see how happy they are to be involved in a partnership that builds a better home for their families.

Share with us some lessons you have learned through your work as volunteers.

To trust in God's calling and direction. We have had many confirmation moments when we knew we were on the right track – not always easy, but right. And we have learned to be flexible, adaptable and patient.

Tell us about one of your most memorable or touching moments as volunteers.

A homeowner mom on one of our first builds asked me (Cindy) if she could discuss something in private. We sat down on her dirt floor in the shack her family was living in and she said, "The construction supervisor showed me a photo of my kitchen cupboards that will go into our new house. They look really nice, but I don't have a clue what to put in them. I've never lived in a house with cupboards."

Shocked on the inside but cool as a cucumber on the outside, I talked about ways she could use her cupboards. It was an "aha" moment for both of us.

Inspired to give back?

Find out more about Thrivent Builds and how you can help families build affordable housing.

Or, learn more about Thrivent and what makes us different.