It started in 2007, when the Ohio State University Buckeye Barbeque Club was holding its annual fundraiser for the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and asked Rob Schenz for help.
The first time he donated propane at cost. After that, it was free. Then he became a sponsor.
“What kind of struck me with them was their philanthropic spirit,” said Schenz, owner of Specialty Gas House and Specialty Gas Services, both located at 4800 Indianola Ave. in Clintonville. The business sells grills, fire pits, fireplaces and related merchandise and services to install or repair those items.
These days, one could say Schenz can’t stop giving. He has formed the Specialty Gas Foundation, a charitable organization that gives away all of the money it earns.
Over the years, he’s given about $177,000 and 100,000 pounds of food to various charities that help veterans, families of fallen law enforcement officers, cancer sufferers and the hungry.
“It’s feel-good stuff for all involved,” said Schenz, 51, a Sunbury resident. “Not only is it good for business, it’s just good business. It’s giving back to the community. It’s giving back to the causes we’re passionate about.”
Barbecuing definitely has become an important part of the mission, Schenz said. One his biggest fundraisers of the year is the Ohio Egg Fest, where several teams use Big Green Egg domed grills to compete for prizes. Schenz supplies the new grills. Teams can buy the grill or simply cook on them. Spectators pay $25 admission.
Another annual barbecue competition, held in May at the Tremont Center in Upper Arlington, raises money for the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, which includes the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.
Every day at Specialty Gas House is a “10 for 10” discount. Those who bring in 10 non-perishable items for the Clintonville-Beechwold Community Resources Center get a 10 percent price break on merchandise at the store.
“More small businesses should do this,” he said of philanthropic giving. “They’d see the return both in feeling good and business.”
During grilling season, Fridays are reserved for low-key cookouts in the Specialty Gas House parking lot. Burgers, soft drinks and a bag of chips are served for $5. The money is given to veterans’ groups unless, on the first Friday, another charity is suggested, Schenz said.
“If they want to throw something else in there, if they want to throw a $20 in there, I won’t complain,” he said.
Schenz remains humble in his quest to help others.
“All the stuff I do, I don’t do it for recognition,” Schenz said. “It’s something that helps me lay my head on my pillow at night and know I’ve done good.”
Hank Bobulski, a Gahanna resident and customer of Specialty Gas House, nominated Schenz for the award. “You have to understand, you don’t just become a customer, you become a family member there,” Bobulski said. “Rob pays forward in such a way that others cannot help but follow his lead. Just an example, he has inspired our granddaughters (Kylie, 12, and Alexi, 11) in the value of paying forward in our community when they attend one of his events.”
Bobulski said Schenz gets his employees involved, while they’re on the time clock, to help and come up with their own ideas.
“He’s a small-business owner,” Bobulski said. “He’s not a big-box store. His passion and enthusiasm of the small-business owner goes behind his small business.”
“He creates events of all sorts that are magnets that bring people together for fun and activities and ultimately enhance the community,” Bobulski said.