Charity Crannell is a well-known and notably charismatic member of the Pine River community.
Many know her as the Pine River-Backus School District office secretary. Others recognize her as a bartender and server at Bites Grill & Bar. Some might have noticed she's been picking up shifts at 371 Station since the beginning of the pandemic.
"I want to be carefree, loving and happy. You have to throw out that sunshine everywhere you can. You don't know what challenges other people are dealing with."
— Charity Crannell.
Likely nobody who has met Crannell in any of these settings would describe her today as bashful. Crannell said it wasn't always that way.
"Growing up I was very shy, quiet, reserved," she said. "I'm the opposite of that now. On a completely different end of the spectrum. I'm very out there."
Growing up was typical of many kids in the area. She had an older brother, a younger brother and two parents who both worked. They lived out of town but not too far from the school. She had her fair share of chores on the family hobby farm where they raised chickens, rabbits and pigs. They were an outdoors family.
"We grew up back-of-the-truck riders and survived. We loved it," Crannell said. "We would hit the back roads grouse hunting. Dad didn't need a dog. He had us kids and we would fight over who got to grab the bird."
She mostly kept to herself.
"I didn't do sports. I didn't do much," Crannell said. "I didn't have a lot of friends. I was a good kid. I got fair to good grades. My days would be spent riding horses and doing chores."
The family did nightly rides, and sometimes Crannell would ride her horse to the school while her friends were playing ball games where she would chat with them through the fence before going home.
"Growing up I was very shy, quiet, reserved. I'm the opposite of that now. On a completely different end of the spectrum. I'm very out there."
— Charity Crannell
She may not have been too outgoing then, but she was still learning things she would need to know in the future. She brags about learning how to back up a car using the mirrors, how to back up a trailer and, most of all, how important family is.
It was then that Crannell learned her work ethic from her active parents.
"I'm a perfectionist," she said. "If I do a job, I'm going to do it right. My mom always said, 'Once the job has begun, big or small, do it well or not at all.' There's more to it, and I hate that saying, but with all three jobs I work, I want it to be done right. To me it's important that things are done correctly and in a timely manner. I take pride in what I do."
Crannell may have been more shy in her youth, but as some people grow into their ears or nose, Crannell grew into her confidence.
"I just learned I had to adapt to my environments. The older I get the more I feel this is who I am and this is what you're going to get," she said. "I want to be carefree, loving and happy. You have to throw out that sunshine everywhere you can. You don't know what challenges other people are dealing with."
Crannell graduated from Pine River-Backus School. Today she has her own junior and sophomore PR-B students, as well as one graduate from the class of 2018.
She not only came back to the district as a parent, but in 2013 she came back to work. At first she worked as support for the district office and community education department. As of this year she's been serving as district office secretary. She wears many hats.
"(Duties are) answering the phones, giving out bus passes, end of the day passes, attendance projects and whatever projects we do," Crannell said. "I'm currently working on getting the yearbook wrapped up. I still support Troy (Gregory, community education director) where he needs support getting flyers out for youth sports, youth enrichment activities. I do the copy center. There's been times this year that have been challenging. I've stepped in and helped with transportation dispatching and answering phones for them."
Of course, every single one of these hats requires charisma and person-to-person interaction with people who may be in a hurry, having a hard time or in need of very specific assistance. That work hinges on the confidence she might have lacked back in high school.
It's probably good that she learned those skills, too, because it has allowed her to do a job she enjoys.
"" love seeing the kids and their smiling faces ... well, their smiling eyes. I've always liked seeing the kids and how excited they are to be here and how happy they are and when they are interacting with friends. That's my favorite part of the job."
— Charity Crannell
"I love seeing the kids and their smiling faces ... well, their smiling eyes," Crannell said. "I've always liked seeing the kids and how excited they are to be here and how happy they are and when they are interacting with friends. That's my favorite part of the job."
Working at Bites and 371 Station means Crannell also gets to interact with the students and their parents in a completely different environment. Bites was meant to be a temporary job, but it's been three years with no signs of ending.
"I love interacting with the people," Crannell said. "You get to know people on a different level. I know the kids here and I get to know the parents outside of the school. I like interacting with people."
Crannell only seems to have recently realized how much she's changed.
"I did not think I was a people person until we got shut down," she said. "The second day I cried. I missed the kids. I missed the people. I made 12 pies in two days and gave them away to people. I went on a baking spree to see people happy."
Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.