Image of Carl and Barb Menkel

Carl and Barb Menkel: A Love of Giving Back Together

(February 1, 2023) Longtime volunteers Barbara and Carl Menkel celebrate two significant milestones this year- a 61st wedding anniversary and 20 years of supporting Habitat for Humanity in Oregon.

The pair met in highschool on a blind date. Carl’s best friend since the 3rd grade played matchmaker. Through hearty laughter, Carl recalls their first date as: “a wild party” in January of 1960 before adding “And he’s still my best friend!”

Through their six-decade history, the Menkels have celebrated many accomplishments together in addition to their matrimony. Chief among them- home ownership, raising a family, and retirement. 

Home has meant many things to the Menkels over the years. “A lot of work,” Barbara says with a laugh and a smile before following up with, “Stability”.

Carl adds, “A safe place, a home base.”

The pair know a thing or two about stability and a homebase - they’ve had the same address in Canby since they bought their home in September 1966. There, they raised two daughters who went off to college, got married, and started families of their own. The extended Menkel clan now includes four grandchildren, three great grandchildren, and numerous dogs.

As Carl wound down his tenure in corporate tech in the early 2000s, the pair started to lay the groundwork for their next chapter.

“It was right after we retired that we just immediately jumped into Habitat,“ said Carl.

The pair’s first role with Habitat for Humanity included 12 years with the family selection committee. Carl served on the board of directors including time as chairman. His first construction build with Habitat was also the first Habitat house built in Canby. In the years since, Carl has been involved with 22 home builds and counting, traveled to Cambodia in 2011 for an international building project, and currently serves on the safety committee. Carl got his start swinging hammers and raising walls by watching and learning from other volunteers as they worked. Almost as long as Carl and his iconic green coveralls have been a fixture on the job site, Barbara’s baked goods have been fueling volunteers.

Taught by the grandmother who lived with her family as a girl, Barbara bakes confections like blueberry coffee cake and butterscotch coconut cookies with a trusty KitchenAid stand mixer- a Christmas gift from Carl over 30 years ago. Barb tries to vary what she bakes but the crew favorite are the luscious lemon bars.

“It’s so fast and it’s so easy,” says Barb. Carl chimed in that the recipe is easy enough that he’s helped a time or two.

They share a zest for staying busy. When not building Habitat homes, Carl keeps active with projects around the house and at their beach cottage in Lincoln City. Both are also involved members in their church. Carl is a trustee and on the church board, a member of the cemetery and health committees, and is currently tasked with building a deck for the church. Barb enjoys passing the hours with her sewing machine making quilts. Barb has made quilts for the children of the last several partner families putting love into every stitch.

On their lasting time together, Carl says, “A relationship is a process,” as his wife nods in agreement. “It has smooth roads and bumps.” Barb also notes the importance of not taking yourself too seriously.

Carl reflects: “You know, if you've led a good life and are fairly comfortable, think about others. Give back.” He pauses for a moment before adding with a smile, “Go to a family selection meeting sometime.”

While the tools of their trades vary slightly, precision measuring, smiles, and a love of giving back are part of a winning recipe for the Menkels’.