One of the things Assistant General Counsel Cary Schmelzer missed the most while living in Singapore for over 20 years was a great library. “Libraries now go way beyond books, offering things like GED and ESL classes,” Cary says. “Libraries serve as portals to knowledge, wisdom and a better life.”
After moving to Dallas from Singapore two years ago for his current role at ORIX, Cary was thrilled to discover the company’s headquarters is only a couple of blocks from the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, one of 29 branches that make up the Dallas Public Library system. Quickly becoming a regular, Cary was encouraged by a friend to serve on the board of Friends of the Dallas Public Library (FoDPL)-a non-profit which provides philanthropic support for the city’s library facilities and resources-and he assumed his role in July.
“Cary is a library power user-he gets his CDs, books and DVDs here,” sasy Kate Park, executive director for FoDPL. “He’s able to speak authentically about why libraries are important, and we’re fortunate to have him on our board.”
Founded in 1950, FoDPL helps support a lot of the library programs that the city of Dallas’ budget doesn’t cover. That includes things like GED prep and ESL classes, which are free to anyone, and early literacy programs tailored for children whose parents are taking those GED and ESL classes.
“I never want to be perceived as a mere guest in any city in which I live,” Cary says. “I have always endeavored to be an active and contributing member of the community, gratefully giving back in some modest way.”
It’s that attitude that led the Cleveland native to also take on the role of board member for Vogel Alcove, a nonprofit organization that’s been helping children recover from the traumatic effects of homelessness for more than 30 years. Since its founding, more than 14,000 homeless children have been offered a safe place to stay during the day while their parents work to rebuild their lives.
About two years ago, Vogel Alcove also launched a school-age program for homeless kids in kindergarten through fifth grade, providing them a place to spend the day during Dallas ISD school holidays and also offering a summer camp.
“You can never have enough hands when it comes to working with kids,” says Karen Hughes, President and CEO of Vogel Alcove. “The more people that can love on these kids, the better. It’s board members like Cary that will keep the organization moving forward. “I always enjoy new board members coming on because they have a whole new way of thinking,” Karen says.
And that’s a role Cary is happy to take on. “Vogel Alcove and Friends of the Dallas Public Library have given me a front row seat to some of the challenges facing our city,” Cary says. “I don’t want to bury my head in the sand—I want to help to address some of these issues.”
“I’ve been simply awed by how nice and genuine my ORIX colleagues are,” Cary says. “And while being nice is one thing, being truly committed to serving the community—as so many of my colleagues are through the ORIX Foundation and other organizations—is inspiring and a real differentiator.”