Here are Bill Strimbu’s remarks following receipt of the Brookfield Optimist Club’s Outstanding Community Service Award:
“Wow. When I walked in here tonight, and saw how many people were here, I thought, ‘Man, this was a really bad idea to accept this award.’ But, anyway, I’m here, and I’m really honored and appreciative of the Optimist Club and everybody that’s here this evening supporting their great fundraiser that they have. I don’t have any prepared remarks, so I’ll just speak from the heart to all of you.
“This culture that we have in my family has been around for a very long time. A lot of people don’t know that we do help as many people as we can, because we don’t want them to know. We get a lot of publicity for the memorial fund, because we have to do that to get patrons to come to our event. So we have to advertise and tell all the good things that we do, so people support the event, but this whole culture, for me, started in a garden of all places. My father was a farmer at heart, too, and we had this giant garden when we were growing up. All the kids were expected to work in the garden — it was probably about three or four acres, I guess — and we had a roto tiller, but mostly we used hoes, and we grew enough vegetables for about 10 families our size, maybe more. My brother and I would work in the garden all summer long, and, by the time we got done and got to the last row, we’d have to go back to the beginning of the garden and start all over again. This process went on week after week during the summer, and Saturday was harvest day. My father was home from work and we’d harvest the garden all day, and we’d have bushel baskets of vegetables. Sunday was giveaway day. One car after another would pull into the driveway, some of the people we knew and some people we didn’t. He’d give away all the food. Sometimes, we had to go buy our produce, because we didn’t have any. My brother and I, we’d say, ‘You know, the old man’s really crazy. He’s really lost it. This is bull— that we have to do all this work and he gives it all away.’ We started trying to hold him accountable for it. He would just tell us, ‘You’re working for me.’ He always paid us. You never had to work for free, that was one thing about my dad. You worked; you got paid. He said, ‘It’s more blessed to give than receive. I’m trying to teach you a lesson.’
We farmed in other ways, too. We had cattle and we had crops; we had sheep; we had chickens and all kinds of animals down there on the farm. He was friends with all the other trucking companies around. Ed Chadderton and him were real good friends. John Yourga was his brother-in-law. You remember what Jim (Hoffman) just said, he (Yourga) helped start our company up in this area. They were real close. One day, I was out planting corn and I came to the breezeway because my father would always get there on Friday afternoon, he’d have some of his friends around for a cocktail. Ed Chadderton was there. I was all dusty and grimy. Mr. Chadderton said, ‘Billy, what did you do today?’ I said, ‘I put in about 25 acres of corn.’ He looks at my dad and says, ‘Nick, with all those trucks and stuff, what in the hell are you doing raising corn?’ He said, ‘I’m not raising corn. I’m raising boys.’ I knew right then that I was an indentured servant.
“But, anyway, it’s an honor to be up here. I have a lot of family and friends here. I have employees here tonight. Most of our board of directors of the Strimbu Memorial Fund just happen to be here. I didn’t know they were all coming, by the way, until I got here tonight. That was a nice thing to have happen. I really appreciate the generosity and the award. I appreciate everything that the Optimist Club does. I told Jim, when he interviewed me, I told him that the deal that the board of directors of the Strimbu Memorial Fund makes with everybody that comes to our event, our tickets are $90 a piece, every person that comes is a stakeholder in our community. That’s where our tentacles are. If you see a family in need, if you see a problem, if you see something that needs addressed that is going to require a little bit of a hand up instead of a handout, bring it to us. That’s what we’re there for. I want to tell that to everybody in this room, too. You’re all stakeholders. If you need anything, get a hold of us. You can call me at the office, or contact our board, contact the Community Foundation. We’re just one charity within the foundation. We’ll help anybody in any way that we can. Thank you.”
Read companion story at http://newsonthegreen.com/?p=1763&preview=true