NUSD special-needs teacher Joel Schwieger and the Natomas community’s Keller Williams Realty have been named winners of “Better Together Partnership Awards” from California State University, Sacramento.
Natomas captured two of three “Better Together” categories in this year’s CSUS College of Education contest, which honors “members of the region’s educational, nonprofit, governmental and business community for their efforts and contributions on behalf of our area’s children and families.”
Schwieger won as an exemplary educator for his creation, operation and commitment to Joey’s Food Locker, a community food closet at Natomas High School is run by Schwieger’s adult special-needs students and provides groceries to hundreds of local residents each month.
Keller Williams’ Sacramento Metro office was selected in the “Business Partner” category for impacting students and their families by contributing 300 turkeys to Joey’s Food Locker last Thanksgiving to make the holiday a little brighter for families in need.
The final “Better Together” category, Community Partner, was won by the Hawk Institute, a Sacramento nonprofit leadership academy for young men and women.
“Year after year, we are pleased to share the extraordinary stories about individuals who dedicate their efforts to improving the state of local schools and districts,” CSUS said in describing the purpose of its “Better Together” contest.
Schwieger created Joey’s Food Locker in 2015 and has spent countless hours since then overseeing it, publicizing it, and soliciting non-perishable foods to be given away once-a-month at the Natomas High School facility, located near the school’s tennis courts.
Schwieger teaches NUSD’s Adult Transition Program for special-need adult students learning independent living skills to overcome physical or mental challenges. At Joey’s Food Locker, the students gain experience that might help them land a job in private industry: They practice customer service, bagging, stocking shelves, checking expiration dates, and other food-related tasks. Everybody wins.
Joey’s Food Locker is dedicated to the memory of Joel Michael Schwieger Jr., son of Joel and his wife, Darian. “Joey” was born with autism and died at a young age, 30, but he continues to inspire his parents and those who knew him.
Keller Williams’ Sacramento Metro office was honored specifically for its massive donation of turkeys to last year’s Joey’s Food Locker Thanksgiving giveaway, but KW offices nationally and internationally encourage their associates to practice community service.
Each year, for example, KW employees put their business on hold to “give where they live” on RED Day, which stands for Renew, Energize and Donate. Another example, closer to home, is the plan by KW’s Sacramento Metro office is give away backpacks to various students in need for the start of school.
KW’s “Better Together” award honored the Sacramento Metro office’s doubling of its donation of Thanksgiving turkeys to NUSD last year, from 150 to 300, enough to feed more than 2,000 local residents. Healthy students make better learners, so the donation was much appreciated by NUSD.
Rico Rivera, manager of KW’s Sacramento Metro office, 4080 Truxel Road, said the company was not looking for public recognition from its donation, but it’s honored to receive the CSUS award. The purpose of providing Thanksgiving turkeys was simply to help others during the holiday season, Rivera said.
“Our community gives to us and we want to give back,” Rivera said in presenting the turkeys to NUSD last November. “Having a nice meal at Thanksgiving is something everybody deserves.”