By Keith Knepp
WARSAW — When it comes to organizational skills, Stephanie Schaefer is a master.
While her title isn’t officially “community party planner,” it might as well be. In her role as recreation director for Warsaw’s parks and recreation department, Schaefer is responsible for ensuring everyone is having a good time when they attend an event at any of the city’s 19 public parks.
Schaefer started with the department in 2007 as a seasonal skate park employee. After a few seasons in that role, she took over as the skate park supervisor, later becoming the recreation administrative assistant. In August 2021, Schaefer became the recreation director.
“I love my current role,” she said. “I have a lot of passion for this job. I wake up every morning ready to get my day started at the office or wherever I’m going to be, at any of the parks.”
As recreation director, Schaefer oversees all of the department’s programs, events and concerts. She works with all generations — children, teens, adults and seniors.
“I love communicating with each of those groups to make sure everyone is having a good time at whatever event or program we are hosting that day,” she said.
Prior to coming to the parks department, Schaefer worked for Warsaw Community Schools for 12 years while her children were in school. She said that experience helped her in her current position.
“That was a great fit for me,” she said. “I have a lot of experience working with children. I love to see children introduced to different things — art, science or nature — whatever we’re offering here at the parks department.
“I love to create new programs and events that engage the community. I believe every individual should have an opportunity to participate and enjoy recreational activities. When I travel or visit parks or am out in nature, it’s just very relaxing. Giving other people those opportunities makes me really happy.”
Schaefer added that her work isn’t confined to the outdoor parks. She also plans programs and events inside buildings that bring a lot of enjoyment to people.
“Imagination Station is one I really love,” she said. “We’re bringing preschoolers in who are creating crafts. The library is coming in and reading to them. Just giving them some interaction with other preschoolers is important before they get into school.”
Schaefer has lived in Kosciusko County her entire life, growing up in Milford. She and her husband, Eric, a native of North Webster, are graduates of Wawasee High School, where they met. They have been together for more than 34 years. The couple has four adult children, ranging in age from 22 to 31. She also has a dog, Bailey, who she said is very important to her.
“I enjoy being out in nature,” she said. “I kayak a lot on Center Lake. My husband and I love to travel. We’ve been to 44 states together and we’re going to try to finish the rest in the next couple of years. We’ve set that as a goal.”
She and Eric like trying new restaurants. When they travel, they never eat at a franchised eatery. “We ask a lot of people when we’re on vacation a place they would suggest,” she said. “We usually find some really cool places to eat.”
Schaefer is very proud of the 19 parks in Warsaw, giving credit to Superintendent Larry Plummer and Maintenance Director Shaun Gardner for their work in keeping the areas beautiful. When she holds an event or program in one of the parks, she said they always look great.
“I could spend hours about why I love this job,” she concluded. “I like people to be happy and have something to do in our community. I try to keep all programs very low cost or free. That drives me to look for different resources.”