Saginawian of the Year Jim Kanitz doesn't let age 80 slow his volunteer work
December 29, 2012 at 10:03 AM
"The fact that I like to help came from my family values." Jim Kanitz
The 80-year-old Kanitz usually works alone doing unsung volunteer work, but his labors have benefited many organizations. Those include the Castle Museum of Saginaw County History, St. Mary’s of Michigan hospital, the Saginaw Children’s Zoo and Covenant HealthCare.
The Saginaw Township resident says his passion for volunteering was inspired by his father, who regularly shoveled driveways and grew vegetables in a community garden to benefit people in his neighborhood.
“He was always interested in, when he retired, to help other people. The fact that I like to help came from my family values. I’m sure he would be proud,” Kanitz said.
At Covenant, Kanitz has volunteered in the hospital's gift shop for more than 18 years. You'll see him there on Thursdays. Tim Schultz, 47, manages the Covenant gift shops and has worked with Kanitz since 2011. Schultz said Kanitz is a great volunteer who is “dependable, loyal and very friendly to all the customers” and never misses a shift.
“He is pretty humble and gives more to the community than even I knew about; it does not surprise me at all he is the winner of the award,” Schultz said.
Kanitz was nominated for Saginawian of the Year award by his wife of more than 50 years, Emilie, who kept it a secret. In her nomination letter, she wrote that her husband “thrives on helping others.”
“He is not a person who seeks attention to himself. Sometimes, I think attention goes to people who do a lot of work but draw attention to themselves. Jim is not that kind of person at all,” his wife said.
Kanitz attended the University of Michigan before enlisting in the U. S. Army. After he was honorably discharged two years later, he received a bachelor's degree from Michigan State University in 1959, but still has love for the maize and blue. Kanitz served as a swim official and helped out at the concession stand as part of The Blue and White Club at Douglas MacArthur High School in Saginaw before retiring from U.S. Graphite in 1994.
He became treasurer of The Friends of the Library at Hoyt Library, a job he thoroughly enjoyed.
“It was fun because I got to go through all the libraries at one time or another,” Kanitz said. Ken Santa, president of the Castle Museum, has worked with Kanitz for more than four years. He said Kanitz works with the gardeners and makes the grounds look fabulous.
“He is a great guy and we wish we had 25 more of him. Humble, humble, humble, salt of the earth,” Santa said.
Kanitz serves on the Membership Committee at the Museum, has been involved with Habitat for Humanity and has volunteered at St. Mary’s of Michigan Hospital as a shuttle driver for visitors.
He and his wife are members of Saginaw's First Congregational Church, maintaining the garden located on the Baum Street side of the building. Kanitz serves as an usher and is in charge of the Sunday collection, sometimes keeping an eye on the office, if needed.
“I just like trying to help people. There are certain things I can do quite well, like taking care of funds. Another one is that I was a master at putting labels on mailings,” Kanitz said.
Through the years, Kanitz has remembered his father’s legacy and has tried to practice the family values he learned many years ago.
“He has always been a helping person, if someone needs it,” his wife said.