Building a new life through community and historic preservation
By Jennie Berkson
A chance encounter at Pedaling Beans in Lake Leelanau drew Leelanau County newcomer Neil Schoof to volunteer with ShareCare.
“I wanted to get involved in some type of volunteering. It seemed like a good fit,” he said.
Neil’s a retired architect and so is particularly interested in how people live at home.
“I liked the idea that this organization allows people to stay in their homes for as long as they are able,” he said.
Although Neil and his wife Susan Reed are originally both from Michigan, they lived in Chicago for many years. Moving to a rural area increased his awareness of the different needs for transportation as one ages or develops a disability.
“I saw that there were many different reasons to require driver assistance,” he said. “Unexpected events can also suddenly change one’s ability to get to necessary appointments, if even for a short term.”
Neil and Susan arrived in the area three years ago and began the process of building their home in Suttons Bay, which, like everything else in the world, was significantly impacted by the pandemic.
Nonetheless, Neil jumped at the chance to be involved in the community and started driving for ShareCare.
“The rides are always interesting,” he said. “The people are wonderful and I always hear some great stories. I like history and people are always willing to share.”
In addition, he also delivered groceries. “Hansen’s had a program where they teamed up with Share Care. You weren’t talking or touching anything. I wasn’t afraid to do it,” he said.
Neil’s connection to Northern Michigan and his interest in history and personal stories began years ago with a brush with a famous name.
“One summer, during college, I spent some time in Petoskey and ended up renting a cottage from Sunny Hemingway Miller,” he said. “She charged me cheap rent if I would help out with chores that she needed done. She was a delightful woman who shared her stories and I was able to learn firsthand about her family history and especially about her brother. Yes, her brother Ernest.”
Even though Neil’s only been in town a short while, he’s also been lending his professional expertise to Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear, the organization which “partners with Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore to provide funds and volunteers for the preservation of its 360 historic buildings and landscapes, and share its pioneer heritage for the enrichment of individuals and communities.”
“I volunteer on the board working with others in finding solutions for adaptive re-use for some of the historic buildings in the Park as a way of preserving them for future generations,” Neil explained.
“Leelanau County is the most beautiful place in Michigan,” Neil said. “It was an easy decision to move here.” His volunteer efforts will keep it beautiful and easy to live in for others, as well.