By Devon Van Noble
This month’s Volunteer Spotlight is on a very special Groundswell contributor, Fred Schoeps. Fred was instrumental in the planning and creation of the Groundswell Center in 2008-9 and he has continued to provide support through advising, envisioning, and putting his shoulder to the wheel on numerous projects.
Fred’s contributions have included helping to manage the early phases of our website development, scoping out database options for tracking our many contacts in the community, reviewing budgets and grant proposals, and harnessing his tremendous passion for Groundswell to reach out to organizational supporters and community members. He is a model of inspired and inspiring volunteer commitment, making himself available to address almost any of Groundswell’s organizational needs as they come up. He was also our first Advisor to step forward with a generous donation for the Groundswell Farm Enterprise Incubator.
“Fred brings a wealth of business and organizational expertise to the Groundswell team,” says Groundswell Director Joanna Green. “He is absolutely passionate about what he calls 'knowledge management systems' and he loves to think creatively about how to improve communications, organize information, and support people to achieve great things.” Fred’s professional background includes many years with IBM in its systems engineering, management consulting and marketing departments. He was a member of the launch team for IBM’s original foray into the PC business and later, as IBM’s Director of Learning and Knowledge Management, was instrumental in the Re-Engineering IBM project. After retiring from IBM he moved with his wife Margot to Ithaca in 2008. Shortly thereafter he joined the Board of Directors for EVI, Inc. that advises EcoVillage at Ithaca Center for Sustainability Education.
As the Treasurer of EVI, Inc., Fred has been able to share a lot of insight with Groundswell staff about managing non-profit budgets, planning strategically, and understanding funding opportunities. This summer he joined Groundswell's volunteer Development Team to prioritize and pursue major grant opportunities. Fred has helped open a dialogue between Groundswell and The Community Foundation of Tompkins County, and has also guided Groundswell staff (in particular, me!) through the process of approaching major funders and organizational supporters. I can see that Fred intends to nurture a fundraising competency in the organization so that Groundswell can be more financially resilient and self-reliant. But Fred is just as eager to be the spokesperson himself, and I have recently seen his wife, Margot, have to literally pull him by the hand away from a Groundswell tabling event!
Groundswell Program Assistant Rachel Firak says, “Fred is a positive force with strong ideals for our community. He is a visionary who sees Groundswell’s full potential as the amazing agricultural training and resource center that it can be, and he has worked tirelessly in pursuit of that vision.” Fred is constantly contemplating Groundswell’s potential in the future. For example, he recently began meeting with a group of Ithacans who intend to develop a local investment fund for agricultural and other sustainable resource enterprises in our area. Fred is keeping an eye out for the potential ways local food & farming groups, especially Groundswell, will be able to fit into such future systems. This type of visionary thinking, and exploration is fundamental for Groundswell’s long-term sustainability, as well as its functionality within the community.
We are all grateful for the energy and creativity that Fred has invested in growing Groundswell!