Poverello salutes Mary Schack and Robert Bastien as our December 2019 VIP’s.  An unlikely pairing, they each admit, Mary and Robert have become close friends thanks to their meeting through regular volunteering in the Poverello Food Pantry several days a week where they spend their time filling orders in the mornings.

Mary was born in Hazleton, PA where she attended boarding school at Marywood Seminary and then continued her undergraduate studies in biological and chemical sciences at St. Francis University in Loretto, near Pittsburgh.  She moved to South Florida in 1960 to attend graduate school at the University of Miami where she obtained her master’s degree in Human Anatomy and Physiology.  Following graduation, Mary accepted a teaching position at Saint Thomas Aquinas High School where she taught science for 39 years and was the Science Department Chair for 38 of those years prior to retiring.  She has also held adjunct instructional positions at Broward College and the College of Boca Raton (Marymount College).  Mary has one son named Larry who lives in Boston with his four children whom Mary adores grand mothering when she travels there on special occasions and holidays.  She says that she is looking forward to spending Christmas up there.  In her spare time Mary enjoys playing ladies doubles tennis and says she has been an avid player for many decades, having even watched several live matches at Wimbledon – which is her favorite of all the Grand Slam tournaments.  Mary is a Lector and Eucharistic Minister at St. John the Baptist Church in Oakland Park where she celebrates her Catholic faith regularly. Mary also volunteers at Blessed Sacrament assisting in the homeless ministry and remembers Poverello founder Father Bill fondly stating that “boy he gives a good sermon.”

Robert was born and raised in Springfield, MA and graduated from Commerce High School there.  After graduation, served in the Air National Guard and worked for a local travel agency.   After learning the ropes in the travel industry, Robert stepped out and launched his own boutique travel agency in MA which allowed him to travel the world and assist others with their desire to do the same.   Seeking a warmer climate, Robert moved to Florida where he semi-retired and worked as an executive driver for Marriott where he chauffeured the likes of JW Marriott himself, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme among others.  After leaving Marriott after more than a decade of service, Robert found himself fully retired and decided to take on a part time key man position at the Empire Theater where he assists in all aspects of theatre operations and feeds his passion for a good play.  Robert states that he loves the theatre and that there is no city in the world that can hold a candle to New York City because “that’s where Broadway is.”  Robert is single and has no children, so he freely pours his love out in his every day encounters with people put in his path such as those he encounters at Poverello.

Robert has been volunteering consecutively for more than six years now and Mary with him for the better part of the last four of those years.  Robert admits openly that his time in service at Poverello came about at the recommendation of a therapist who suggested that getting out of his house and his head after finding himself no longer working might be just the thing to help with his depression – and it was!  He laughingly shares that he “hasn’t needed that therapist since the day he suggested I start volunteering here.”  Mary shares that she is motivated to serve by her deep faith in God and Paul’s letter to the church at Corinth where he shares what love is and believes that she gets to “share love like that every day I am here.”

Mary and Robert have formed a deep and lasting friendship through their “happenstance encounter” here at Poverello.  When asked about their friendship, Mary says “Well, Robert is a really easy person to like” to which Robert counters “I feel the same about you!”  Watching the two of them in service together and sitting and laughing with and at one another, it’s no wonder that everyone who works with them at Poverello appreciates the time they have with them.  So, this month Poverello salutes Mary and Robert with our VIP Award for December 2019 ending the year and the decade on an extremely high note.

VIP: Dec 1st, 2019.

Article written by Rusty Carbaugh



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