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. Connie, a retired nurse, said “I could do that.” Roger, a retired college professor, replied, “We really ought to do something.”
The next morning they called their local Red Cross. 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.
Modeling Lifelong Examples
Helping people in need is something Connie and Roger have seen from the time they can remember. ”Helping others is 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 vaguely remembers her mother sewing bandages during WW II. She more clearly recalls her mother taking a Red Cross first aid course. “Mother was quite well known in the community for helping others,” she said.
Roger’s parents, both teachers, were equally well known for their service. Every summer during WW II his father went to a factory in Detroit (nearly 300 miles away) to help manufacture tanks, and his mother was always knitting 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.”
Serving Through the Red Cross
The couple has responded to a dozen large-scale disasters, including Superstorm Sandy last winter. In Denver, their local community, 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.”
Being a Red Cross volunteer has brought the couple many life-long friends, and warm memories of being appreciated. Roger, for example, talks about the time he was serving breakfast in a shelter when a man displaced by the storm told him how much he liked being there. Roger asked him why. “It’s the love,” the man replied. “You show us love.”
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.”