Bluefield College is a Christ-centered learning community which seeks to graduate servant leaders who understand their life calling and transform the world. If alumnus Ryan Schalles is any evidence of that, then BC is doing a good job of fulfilling its mission.
Schalles, a 2002 BC graduate, was recently recognized by his employer, the Wendy’s Corporation, with a community service award for his work with Always Believe, a non-profit foundation dedicated to creating a safe place for underserved and at-risk children of Charlotte, North Carolina, to learn and grow, primarily through the game of basketball.
Created by Muggsy Bogues — a former professional basketball player who enjoyed significant success in the game, despite being the shortest player to ever play in the NBA at 5’3” — Always Believe offers at-risk youth in the community the opportunity to be a part of Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball teams in order to develop and get exposure athletically and academically.
Schalles got involved with Always Believe through another part of his community service, Celebrities and Strikes, a fundraising bowling event designed to benefit the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. Through his involvement with Celebrities and Strikes, he was invited to participate in Always Believe’s annual basketball summer camp where he heard Bogues’ story.
“Muggsy inspired me to continue to make a difference in our community,” said Schalles, “and to appreciate a humble heart while holding leadership development, character building, mentoring, and team building to the highest standard.”
Since joining the Always Believe cause, Schalles has helped the Bogues family plan several fundraisers. As part of his efforts, he invites local sports celebrities to give of their time to attend the fundraising events. He also assists with celebrity luncheons and with acquiring sponsorships for Always Believe fundraisers.
“I am blessed my company could support Muggsy Bogues and the Bogues family with Always Believe,” said Schalles. “They are doing an excellent job changing children’s lives one at a time.”
In addition to planning fundraisers, Schalles gets to spend time with the youth who are a part of Always Believe, where he and others within the foundation teach the kids essential life lessons about character, leadership, and team building, all with the hope that the lessons will inspire the youth to reach their full potential as students and eventually adults.
“I believe our efforts are truly making a difference with at-risk youth,” said Schalles, “because we are spending time with these individuals, which is needed so desperately to encourage positive behavior and to encourage growth and positive reinforcement. It is all about showing our at-risk youth that we care about them and they can reach their goals with determination and thinking outside the box.”
While a student at Bluefield College, Schalles studied business management and exercise science. He was part of the Honors Program and a frequent member of the Dean’s List. He was also a member of the men’s varsity tennis and soccer teams and an active participant of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).
He credits Bluefield College for instilling in him the value of service through professors, mentors and messages in BC chapel services. He recalled one particular chapel message from a South African missionary, who challenged him to believe that others can be brought to Christ through service. Inspired by that message, Schalles put the practice into action the following summer by raising money with his youth group for a local food bank. As a result of their efforts, several people accepted Christ.
After Bluefield College, Schalles worked as a general manager for Chick-fil-A for 11 years, where he said he was taught to be a steward in the restaurant business and developed an even greater appreciation for the idea of giving back to the community. He later worked as an operations specialist for Kentucky Fried Chicken and YUM Brands, where he assisted in training and conducting corporate inspections.
Today, he’s a customer experience manager for Wendy’s, Inc. in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he said he’s grown to embrace the five core values of the company that founder Dave Thomas used as the foundation of their culture: “Quality is our recipe, just be nice, always do the right thing, profit is not a dirty word, and give something back to the communities that take care of us.”
“Dave founded Wendy’s with messages about quality and respect, and they continue to shape me as a professional and individual each day,” said Schalles. “Since working at Wendy’s I have learned and adhere to Dave’s motto of ‘support the community that supports you as it makes good business sense, and it’s also the right thing to do.’”
And for doing the right thing, giving back to his community and transforming the world, Schalles was recently recognized as a Community Ambassador by Wendy’s. Each year, as part of its Community Ambassador Grant Program, Wendy’s selects 10 exemplary employees from across the company family to receive the distinction in honor of their “extraordinary community service efforts.” Schalles was among the most recent group recognized for going “above and beyond in their efforts to better their communities.”
“We know that our people are our greatest asset,” said Liliana Esposito, chief communications officer for Wendy’s, Inc. “We are proud to recognize our employees who are leading outstanding projects and actively working to help others in their communities.”
Schalles is in his fifth year with Wendy’s and fourth year with Always Believe. He and his wife, Lindsay, have a daughter, Kenna Claire.