Give him a stock pot and Ernie Schan can work his magic — especially with chicken noodle.
Since 1995, Schan has made soup at the Salmon Arm Soup Kitchen on Fridays and serves it up to whoever wants a bowl.
From the first taste, it’s easy to tell the stock is made from scratch – no store-bought base here. It’s rich with a mix of noodles in all shapes and sizes, and piping hot to nourish those who have come inside the Crossroads Free Methodist Church basement on Shuswap Street.
Schan likes all types of soup – pea, beef vegetable, but is particularly fond of making chicken noodle and he says it is the most requested variety at the soup kitchen.
But cooking soup each Friday is only one of the many volunteer jobs Schan does around Salmon Arm. Indeed his calendar is pretty full with one usually behind-the-scenes job or another.
“I’m a better-to-be-busy kind of guy,” says the senior, whose crinkles in the corners of his eyes are evidence of a lifetime of genuine smiles. “I like to be doing. I don’t want to just be sitting around the house.”
Indeed, Schan’s volunteer resume makes the head spin.
He’s a volunteer at the Fifth Avenue Seniors Centre and works for the Good Food Box program, putting together the food baskets, since shortly after its inception. He notes with pride how that program has grown from 60 to 70 bins of fresh healthy produce each month to this past week which saw 204 baskets leave.
He’s an active member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, singing in the choir and serving in many capacities, including counting the funds from the collection at services and working away at yard maintenance.
“It was really in need of a fix up, so I worked away at planting trees and fixing up the grounds, you know, sprucing it up.”
It’s the kind of thing that’s typical for Schan, seeing a need and stepping in to fill it.
He’s a longtime member of the Knights of Columbus, serving in “well, just about every position you can be,” and once again bringing his cooking skills.
“I like to cook, so whenever there’s a meal to put on, I’m the chef.”
A retired BC Hydro employee, Schan is also active with the BC Hydro Power Pioneers, a group which hosts social events for its members but also does charitable work to raise month for the cancer society and the diabetes foundation.
But a defining theme in Schan’s life has been a love of sports, particularly hockey and baseball, and he has parlayed that into hundreds of hours of volunteer time.
In his working days, Schan was a minor hockey coach for 22 years, coaching mostly midget and bantam teams, saying he still sees some of the players on the street today.
“Believe it or not, I coached a young player named Roy Sakaki when he was 17. I took him and some other boys to a tournament in Kelowna one time and I don’t think he said more than 10 words. Now it’s hard to get him to shut up!” he says with a good-humoured laugh.
His love of hockey has also resulted in more volunteer work with the Silverbacks booster club, where he also spends time at games as a goal judge. He’s been a booster since the team first came to town.
Minor baseball also benefitted from his expertise on the field and, in addition to playing ball, he also coached a senior women’s team, as well as being an umpire for many years.
“I just liked sports and these things don’t run themselves,” he says. “If we want sports, people have to step up and help out.”