Meet Steve Schroeder, one very busy guy since retiring from Collins Aerospace in 2015. Steve not only volunteers as a wheelchair ramp designer for WRAP, but also helps out at Habitat for Humanity, Matthew 25, Cedar Rapids Noon Lion’s Club, CRVI, United Way 55+, University of Iowa, and St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.
You might see him anywhere in town, or maybe at an Iowa Hawkeye game shuttling people to and from in an ADA golf cart! When he is not doing all those things, he loves to help friends and neighbors, and is on the second remodel of his own home. Steve’s wife, Janet, says, “Steve didn’t retire, he just changes the address where he goes to work every day.”
Steve was born and raised in the small Southern California town of Eagle Mountain and graduated from San Diego State University with a BSEE degree in 1978, but that was just the beginning of his education. He landed his first job in Iowa at Rockwell International, now Collins Aerospace right after college. His career at Collins was exciting and throughout his 38.5 years there, he completed an MBA through the University of Iowa and a Master of Engineering in Systems Engineering from Iowa State University in 2002, both through a dual-degree master’s program sponsored by Collins.
Steve’s career began as an electrical engineer, where he was part of a team who designed electronic digital computer boards for Electronic Flight Instrument Systems (EFIS). As the years passed, he also worked as software engineer and multiple levels of engineering management for 28.5 years. He moved into the role of principal engineer for the last part of his career. He also spent eight years in the Railroad Electronics division at Collins.
When it came time to retire, Steve wanted to explore volunteer opportunities. He attended a meeting at work called the Collins Retiree Volunteers in Iowa or CRVI. Angie Ehle was there representing WRAP and Steve knew other retired Collins employees who volunteered for WRAP. Angie gave an update on the program, and it piqued his interest. He noted that the Collins retiree volunteers were the first to address the need for people to gain access to their homes in Linn County. So, he saw the need for more help at WRAP and it was a good fit for his skills.
Soon after retirement, he began volunteering as a builder at wheelchair ramp builds and enjoyed working with his hands. It became evident after he worked on a few builds, though, that there was a significant need for ramp designers, so he was assigned two mentors who taught him the ropes of designing. His first design was built in May 2016, and he has worn many hats at WRAP since then. Steve has worked as a builder, designer, cutter, mentor, teacher, and he also serves on the board of directors representing designers.
“Working for WRAP gives me the opportunity to purchase new tools! Woo Hoo! Tools that can be used to help with WRAP builds and other volunteer activities.” He always buys red tools, which is cause for much joking between him and other volunteers.
One of his favorite stories involved a WRAP build for a veteran who lost a leg. The day after the build, the man called Steve and tearfully expressed his gratitude for all he and the other WRAP volunteers did for him. He was so excited, and he could not wait to tell Steve that he was finally able to get in and out of his home by himself using his new ramp. “He just could not thank me and the other WRAP volunteers enough for doing this for him.”
Another memory involved a woman who was driving by during a ramp build. She stopped and asked what they were doing. “I gave an overview of what WRAP does and she said she would like to thank us for our efforts by providing us with lunch. She owned a sandwich shop, and even though I told her it was not necessary, she would not take no for an answer. Lunch was great!”
“Sometimes I will catch a glimpse of a client watching out the window at all of the build activities as their wheelchair ramp comes together. I can tell that they are excited and just can’t wait to use it.”
When asked what he would tell someone who is considering volunteering for WRAP, Steve says, “Just do it! WRAP provides an opportunity for you to give of your time to help others. It is a good way to meet other volunteers all with the same goal. At the end of the day, you feel great that you were able to provide home accessibility to someone in need.”
Volunteer or donate to WRAP, call (319)369-7377. Donations of materials are also welcome!