Connie and Roger Hoffer were watching reports of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when an announcement came on that the American Red Cross needed 40,000 volunteers. The retired couple – Connie a nurse and Roger a college professor - were inspired to help and called their local Red Cross the next day.
One day later, Roger trained to be a client caseworker. The following day Connie took disaster health services training. Soon both were deployed: Roger to Alabama; Connie to Louisiana.
FAMILY LEGACY Helping people in need is something Connie and Roger have seen from the time they can remember. ”Helping others was very definitely a part of our cultures as we were growing up,” Connie remarked. Even her grandparents, Swedish immigrants, raised four orphans along with six children of their own.
Although Connie was young, she remembers her mother sewing bandages during WWII and taking a Red Cross first aid course. “Mother was quite well known in the community for helping others,” she says.
Roger’s parents, both teachers, were equally well known for their service. Every summer during WWII his father went to a factory in Detroit to help manufacture tanks, and his mother knit warm clothing to be sent to soldiers.
“If someone had a need, you helped out; that’s just what you did,” Connie said. “Doing so through an organization such as the Red Cross is very satisfying to those of us who grew up in that kind of culture.”
RED CROSS SERVICE The couple has responded to a dozen large-scale disasters, including Superstorm Sandy last winter. In their local community of Denver, they receive emergency disaster calls day or night—mostly for house and apartment fires—and then locate and send out disaster action team members to help. “Volunteering is very, very rewarding,” Connie said. “It has become a part of us.”
They also have many warm life-long memories. In San Diego, for example, Roger remembers giving money to buy clothing to a man displaced by wildfires. The man hesitated, and then accepted. “I have food and a place to stay,” he told Roger. “If I don’t really need this money, who should I return it to?”
Connie has become part of the Red Cross nursing volunteer leadership that supports thousands of nurses actively serving across the organization. She also continues as a member of Disaster Health Services, caring for shelter residents; helping people who congregate at locations where bulk items such as food, toiletries and clean-up supplies are distributed; going door-to-door visiting people affected by a disaster; and making hospital and condolence visits.
INSPIRING FUTURE GENERATIONS The Hoffer’s granddaughter, Rachel, recently became a Red Cross volunteer. A student nurse with a part-time job, Rachel selected to serve through the Red Cross because of the organization’s link with nursing, and because the Red Cross offers flexibility. “My grandparents, and especially my Grandma, are very well known with the Red Cross everywhere and it’s always fun meeting people they have worked with,” she said. “It makes me feel very proud to be continuing the legacy.”
BECOME A RED CROSS NURSE During National Nurses Week, the Red Cross salutes the more than 15,000 nurses and student nurses who serve the organization today by volunteering to help others. If you are an RN or LPN/ LVN consider becoming a Red Cross nursing volunteer like Connie. Student nurses are also welcome. Contact your local Red Cross to learn about volunteer openings in your community.