If an at-home dad volunteers daily as a school playground monitor, it might seem unusual, but Rob Schweigel does that and much more.
“I’ve never seen anyone like him,” said Gina Brown, principal of St. Mary Parish School, Hales Corners. “He’s extremely talented, but no job is too small for him. He really is one of kind.”
Brown estimated Schweigel puts in about 30 hours a week at the school and parish, which utilize his can-do attitude, information technology skills, buildings and grounds abilities and a willingness to hit the playground in all kinds of weather.
“I don’t mind doing it. I like playing with the kids. They’re always happy to see you,” Schweigel said in a recent interview with your Catholic Herald.
When a few more playground volunteers stepped up, Schweigel’s time on duty recently was reduced to two to three times a week.
But he’ll remain busy at St. Mary, he said, noting, “There’s always something to do.”
“I can’t hold him in higher regard. He’s a very independent, hard worker,” said Becki Kram, parish and school director of technology. “It’s more unusual for him not to be here.”
Schweigel doesn’t just wait for assignments, Kram said, but finds things that should be done – such as blowing the dust out of keypads – and gets them done. He’s got a, “What’s next?” work ethic and brings valuable insight culled from his profession as well as his time volunteering at his former parish school, Kram said.
While he mainly volunteers during the day at St. Mary, Schweigel works off hours if needed, Kram said.
He put in about 15 hours on the Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving to do work that needed to be done when the buildings were empty. He does virtually all the networking for the parish, among other tasks.
Parish: St. Mary, Hales Corners
Occupation: At-home dad
Favorite hobby: Golfing with his family
Favorite church hymn: “Amazing Grace”
Favorite song: “Solitude” by Louis Armstrong
Favorite quotation: “Get involved. It’s important for you and important for the people you’re helping. Everyone needs a hand.”
Does his Catholic faith motivate him to volunteer?
“Absolutely,” Schweigel confirmed.
And if his kids are off school, he’ll sometimes bring them along to help out, too, Brown noted.
“I think his whole family has this sense of giving back to the community and church,” she said.
Schweigel, an at-home dad for the past 15 years, has found the school and parish setting makes the most of his abilities.
He volunteered for six months at his son’s public school, but found his work limited to shelving library books.
Schweigel wanted to use his information technology background and more hands-on skills with buildings and grounds works as he had at his children’s Catholic grade school in Illinois.
As for St. Mary School, “They always want you here. You knock two things off the list and four more get added on. I just do it because I like helping out. It keeps me busy,” he said.
Schweigel would tell you he’s no saint; one reason he volunteers so much is because a primary alternative is far less attractive.
“I don’t want to clean my house. That’s no fun. As soon as the kids get home from school, it’s a mess again,” he said. “Home usually takes a backseat, unless it gets really bad, then I do it.”
Recognized in the St. Mary Parish bulletin last fall for his efforts, Schweigel was not looking forward to more attention.
“I’m not big on the recognition aspect of it; I kind of shy away from that,” he told your Catholic Herald.
Schweigel grew up Catholic in the Chicago suburbs. His family of eight moved often because his parents bought apartment buildings, moved in, eventually resold them and moved on to another.
He met his wife, Cathy, in an apartment building parking lot when her parents were tenants of his parents.
Schweigel, who said his faith has remained steady throughout his life, attended public schools and eventually earned a degree in electronics from DeVry Institute of Technology.
He became an at-home dad after he and his wife took a look at daycare expenses at the time, and the long hours they were putting in on their full-time jobs.
“Our bet was that her accounting was going to take her farther,” he said.
In addition, Schweigel was working in graphic arts at the time and layoffs were common, so he became the clear choice to leave the paid workforce.
Reactions were mixed.
“My dad was never thrilled about me staying home – ‘You’re doing what?,’” he recalled his dad saying.
Eventually, his father came around to Schweigel’s role in the family, though it was something his dad could never have seen himself doing.
Schweigel’s parish volunteering began in Illinois when his daughter entered kindergarten. He was even a Girl Scout troop leader for many years. Caitlin, 16, now attends Divine Savior Holy Angels High School and Robert, 12, attends New Berlin Eisenhower Middle/High School.
“The more involved I got, the more involved I got,” he said.
Schweigel had lived in Illinois his whole life until July 2010, when Cathy was transferred to the Milwaukee area by her employer, a large accounting firm.
“We love it here,” Schweigel said of Wisconsin, though the slower pace took some getting used to. His family lives in New Berlin but after they visited St. Mary, they were drawn to the Hales Corners community, also home to several of their neighbors.
Brown, the St. Mary principal, is thrilled with that decision.
“He’s just really, really wonderful and we are so blessed to have him here,” she said.