When help is needed, he doesn’t waffle

By Lisa Haefs | For The Compass | March 12, 2015

Nick Salm gives his time to many church, community causes

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]ANTIGO — For Nick Salm, making his community a better place is not a choice. It’s an obligation.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Nick Salm (Lisa Haefs | For The Compass)
Your Catholic Neighbor: Nick Salm (Lisa Haefs | For The Compass)

Salm is the epitome of a community volunteer, involved in everything from the Salvation Army and his church choir, to promoting hospital mission activities and community concert series.

And he’s always looking for more.

“My wife Jeanette and I feel that if we enjoy things in our community, we have an obligation to ensure their success,” said Salm, who is retired after decades in the financial industry. “We want to build a quality of life for as many people as we can.”

Salm first came to Antigo as a summer youth agent in the early 1960s and, time and time again over his career, gravitated back.

After graduating from college, he was based in Antigo as Langlade County’s 4-H agent, employed by the University of Wisconsin Extension, and later worked with the Farmers Home Administration in West Bend and Waupaca, eventually returning again to Antigo as supervisor.

Along the way he served in the Wisconsin Army National Guard as executive officer in Antigo and company commander in Wausau and Mosinee.

Salm moved to private industry in 1980, first as a credit manager for Production Credit Association, and eventually rising to CEO of Farm Credit Services in Antigo and Fond du Lac. After he retired from that company in 1993, he and Jeanette returned to Antigo, where he worked as sales manager for Gallenberg Equipment until 1998, then as a representative with Northwestern Mutual Financial Network until finally retiring from the working world in 2013. Those positions allowed plenty of time for community projects.

“All four of our children, their spouses, and our nine grandkids live within a couple hours from Antigo and love coming here to enjoy our retirement retreat and many times end up helping with community projects,” Salm said.

Salm credits much of his volunteerism to his work with the Antigo Optimist Club, where he is a charter member.

“That’s probably been the one constant,” he said. “People who are in the club have a ‘can do’ attitude and want to make things happen and I like that. I like to be involved in projects that have definite results.”

Those projects have included fund raising for a variety of efforts, including the community’s indoor aquatic center and the high school greenhouse, and working with the local Salvation Army bell-ringing campaign, which consistently posts the highest fund-raising totals per capita in north central Wisconsin.

Salm is the public face for Antigo’s Music in the Park summer concert series, which brings live entertainment to the restored City Park bandstand on Monday and Thursday evenings throughout the summer months.

He was instrumental in getting the renovation process underway at a time when many in the community thought the historic, but deteriorating, structure should be razed. Instead, a cadre of volunteers came together and developed a plan to expand the structure, making it more friendly for musicians and the audience, and in the process created one of the most popular — and still growing — concert series in the northwoods.

Salm’s homemade breakfast and dessert waffles provide another outlet for service.

He developed his one-of-a-kind, light-as-a-feather recipe through trial and error over many years. He heats up those irons for fund-raising efforts to benefit local church and civic organizations, the animal shelter, recreational organizations and, really, almost any nonprofit group that asks.

“Originally we made them for family outings,” Salm said, “and someone said ‘Gee, maybe we could do it as a fundraiser’.”

Salm admitted that he grew up ambivalent about his Catholic faith. But he has found great encouragement in the words and teachings of Pope Francis, who he heralded as a breath of fresh air.

The volunteer said he always comes back to the words of the New Testament.

‘The teachings Christ gave us when he came to the earth were revolutionary, now and then,” he said. “Every time I go to church and re-read those words, I pick up new ideas.”

Most volunteer efforts, Salm admitted, are rather transitory, with short-term, but not long-lasting results.

“None of us are going to last forever,” he said. “What we do today is for today.”

But he recalled a college professor who suggested that life can be measured as a success “if we leave the woodpile a little taller than we found it.”

Salm said his personal woodpile will be made up of the volunteers he has mentored and encouraged to go on to new projects of their own.

“Every time I am involved in a project, my goal is to get people thinking about how they can make a difference,” Salm said. “Get other people excited about making things happen, and pretty soon you’ll have a domino effect. And that’s how you get things done.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info” style=”rounded”]Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Nick Salm

Parish: St. John the Evangelist, Antigo

Age: 72

Favorite saint: Francis of Assisi

Words to live by: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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