The Mahoning Valley doesn't need Mother Teresa, we have Jean Schlecht. Schlecht calls the famous nun, whom she served with for three weeks at a nursing home and orphanage in India, a tiny dynamo.
"She was small and tiny and vital, and she absolutely knew what the Lord wanted her to do," Schlecht said recently in her Warren home.
Schlecht, not so imposing in size herself, is well known in the area for her giving spirit.
Jean Schlecht of Warren shows the plaque she received at for her induction into the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame recently in her Warren home.
"She has been the Energizer Bunny around here for years," said Sandee Mathews, director of Trumbull Mobile Meals.
Mathews nominated Schlecht, who in 1970 helped found the Mobile Meals program in Trumbull County, for the Ohio Senior Citizens Hall of Fame.
"I thought maybe it was time for her to get a little recognition back, and apparently they agreed with me," Mathews said.
On May 26 at the Capitol Theatre in Columbus, Schlecht was among 18 other Ohioans inducted.
"To volunteer is to fill your life," Schlecht said. "When you're old like I am, you have some choices. You can sit at home like a couch potato and do nothing, or you can get out and learn something every day."
Schlecht, 83, began her service in the area as a member of the Trumbull County Medical Society Alliance. Her husband, John, was chief of radiology at Trumbull Memorial Hospital. She had been a nurse at the Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital until "it was time to have children."
The president of the organization, Pat Venetta, asked Schlecht to be chair of community health. Schlecht had read about Mobile Meals programs in other counties and ran with the idea.
In 1970, meals prepared in the Trumbull Memorial Hospital kitchen were delivered to 12 clients. She and Venetta ran the project out of their living rooms. Today, the organization serves about 280 people a day with a volunteer force of 300 to 350 active and 1,700 quietly active, according to its website.
"The medical grant was $600," Schlecht said of that first effort. "Now the budget is $600,000. Sometimes I can't believe it."
Schlecht has served in many different capacities at Mobile Meals, including delivering, and she said seeing the clients gives instant gratification. Some people, she said, have the knife and fork out before the meal arrives. For others, it's someone being there that makes the difference.
"I think for some of these people, the visit is more important than the food," Schlecht said. "If you're not alone, you need to think about that every day."
Also on her volunteering resume is being the co-founder of a hospice program. She said with the protocols - a hospice program is required to have trained volunteers with hours charted - the launch took about a year and a half.
"Hospice isn't like other volunteering," Schlecht said. "You're with a family during one of their member's last part of their life. You have to be comfortable with your own death.
"It's a privilege - not all can do it."
Schlecht says she doesn't like "boardroom volunteering," although she does serve on the Trumbull Mobile Meals Board of Directors.
She continues to fight hunger with her involvement in the Hunger Network in Ohio, a group of churches active in the battle against hunger that goes beyond food pantries.
"This is wonderful, but it's a Band-Aid thing," Schlecht said. "What we need to do is work for systemic change. It's something you have to strive for, so we do."
Somehow, amid all that service to the community and becoming a widow in 1978, Schlecht managed to raise four children.
"It's been a joy growing up in a family that had a clear sense of faith and action and helping people," said daughter Kathy of North Attleboro, Mass., who attended the induction ceremony in May.
"This was kind of a crowning thing," Kathy Schlecht said. "She's gotten many awards in Trumbull County and in the Mahoning Valley, and this was her first statewide award, and when she was nominated for it she was surprised."
She said her mother's spirit has been passed on to herself and her siblings.
"I'm a social worker and I'm active in church things. One of my sisters is a nurse practitioner, and the other one is a teacher," she said. "My brother is an all-around good neighbor and helpful man."
And here comes that battery-inspired title again.
"Her sense of humor and verve infuses everything she does. The 'Energizer Bunny' - that's a lot how people refer to her," Kathy Schlecht said. "Even when her illnesses get her - when it's at its worst, her energizer spirit lives on. She really is a woman who lives to help others."
A world traveler with four grandchildren and one on the way, Jean Schlecht can't do some of the things she used to do. But she doesn't excuse herself from service and wouldn't take excuses from anybody else, either.
"There's a place for everybody," Schlecht said.
Schlecht currently chairs the TMM's annual Basket Extravaganza, to be held Nov. 5.
"I run all over Packard Music Hall in my scooter," she said.
"She's feisty and one of a kind," Kathy Schlecht said. "Her grandchildren refer to her as NASCAR Granny because she's a little lead-footed."