Keith Bryant tied this year for the Weiser Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year. Bryant has been a resident of Weiser for the last ten years and is the co-owner of Weiser Classic Candy. Bryant shared that he probably spends fifty to sixty hours a year volunteering with different things, some he wished to stay anonymous for.
Most of Bryant's volunteering stems from his love of cooking and photography. He says people have contacted him for different reasons and if he sees a need he tries to fill it, “I don't think I am so much a volunteer, I just see where there is a need and just go help” This year Bryant volunteered to help the 4-H Extension Office teach cooking classes. He spent a month teaching cooking a couple times a week, “Lucky enough the Senior Center was kind enough to allow us to hold the class at the Senior Center. So we had a kitchen to cook in. We learned how to make everything from scratch.” Bryant went on to say, “My career as a chef has always been about teaching the next person. I have taught many in the kitchen and I think that is where my volunteerism comes in.”
Cooking for large groups of people is no easy task and Bryant shared that he has been called on when different people or organizations needs help with big events such as the Crab Feed, “Probably for the last seven to eight years I have been involved one way or another with the Crab Feed. Cooking for that many people and all at one time is a challenge. Because of my time spent working on cruise ships cooking for three to four hundred people, it’s more organizational skills. I have tried teaching other people how to do it, so I didn’t do it every year, but I end up helping in some way. Feeding that many people in about forty-five minutes takes a lot of planning.” For the last two and half years Bryant has been writing a food article series for the Weiser Signal American, “I don’t know a lot about a lot, but I know food and I can talk about food.” He shared that a lot of positive things have come from his articles, “People from the community will catch me in the grocery store and ask me questions about food.”
One year Bryant saw a need with the high school yearbook staff, “They needed a camera, so I donated my time and taught a photography class that taught people how to use their cameras to raise money to purchase a camera for the yearbook staff.” Bryant also taught a cooking class and took those proceeds and bought the yearbook staff a year's worth of access to editing programs such as Lightroom and Photoshop.
Although Bryant volunteers a lot, he really enjoys helping out with the annual Thanksgiving Dinner, “They called me one time and told me there was a need to have someone come in and make gravy for the Thanksgiving Dinner and I said sure. That was five years ago and I just go every year and help them get that meal out.” The Slyter and Clary family help put on the dinner every year and when speaking about them Bryant said, “That whole family is amazing in itself.” Bryant explained that there were some tough years and Susan Slyter gave him a Southwest airline gift card so he could purchase a ticket to visit his mom for Christmas, “There are people in your life that touch you and you just want to try and give back to them, you know.”
Bryant has seen first hand how our community can pull together in times of tragedy and how volunteer work can make such a difference to those you serve. In 2015 Bryant and his fiance, Sharon Miyakawa, lost their home to fire, “My own personal tragedy made me realize what an amazing place I lived in and how it’s so important to give back to the community that gave so much to me.” He shared that one person after another kept showing up with money and gifts. “Whatever you give comes back tenfold.”
“I am not a person who needs my name in lights or in the paper, I am just a person who wants to help.” Bryant says that he volunteers to make a difference in other people's lives. “I think if you have a skill set or there's something you're good at, your a good carpenter or painter, anything, go out and teach it. You can't take it with you, if it’s all in your head it just goes away. If you don’t share it in some way you lose it.” Bryant continued, “You just gotta ask me. Tell me what you need. Hopefully I can do that for you or have an idea of who I can talk to that can help you. I’ll go find someone who can do it or at least gain enough knowledge to figure it out.” Bryant wanted to say thank the community for recognizing him , “I play a very small part in a much greater and amazing community.”