By Patricia Foxx
ST. HELEN – Tony and Lois Hoffman are snowbirds. A modest couple in their 70s, they live in St. Helen for part of the year and then they shoot off to Arizona for warm weather adventures when the snow threatens to fall.
However, no matter where they land, the Hoffmans leave their mark through generosity and caring. For the past nine years, they have been serving Saint Helen in a quiet manner.
A sweet couple, in their 70′, they have a fantastic story to tell about how they got together at a class reunion, lived in the State of Wyoming, and then set their roots up here in Northern Michigan. They take pride in where they have lived. Their commitment to helping others is something that they don’t like to brag about. They are content doing good and keeping a low profile.
One of their favorite projects has been The Charlton Heston Academy. Tony came from a Consolidated School District in Wyoming and watched them close the school nearest to him. When the school district decided to close the school here in St. Helen, the Hoffmans went to the meeting and Tony spoke his peace about how he felt about this school closing.
‘There were a lot of ladies who were upset, and then Jennifer Jaroz took the lead in getting a charter school in St. Helen. We became cheerleaders and did what we could,’ said Hoffman.
When St. Helen got the ‘green light’ to open the school, there was work to be done. Many people including the Hoffmans pulled up their sleeves to remodel the existing school building.
It was a huge project. The front flowerboxes needed work, so the Hoffmans replanted them and to make sure they would grow and wouldn’t dry out, they carried 15 gallons of water to them every other day until the school got running water. Staples needed removal, walls needed to be cleaned and prepared for painting, whatever the task, they cheerfully rolled up their sleeves and lent a hand.
The schools’ playground had to be removed due to dangerous equipment. The Hoffmans set out to find a different fundraiser to help out. After doing his research, Tony suggested a ‘Scrap Metal Drive’. They organized it together with Pam Colby from St. Helen Power Sports, and they positioned a trailer outside of a building that they owned and the community dropped off the scrap. They would take the scrap to the recycling center and a monthly check would be sent to go towards the playground equipment.
‘We would like to thank all of the generous people of St. Helen who contributed to the Scrap Metal Drive that we ran for Charlton Heston Academy. All money earned was sent directly to the school to go toward the new playground equipment, which the students are enjoying,’ said Lois.
The Hoffmans continue their help at CHA through various avenues. For example, The Hen House and Peach Pit save Aunt Millie’ bread wrappers and Lois cuts out the pieces needed for the School Spirit program.
‘Tony created a device that allows her to cut up to 15 labels a minute. Because of Lois’ time, the school makes $115 from the program. This is significant because the labels are worth 5 cents each.
‘We save them until she comes home to do them,’ said Tracy Cruz, PTO president. ‘The Hoffmans are known as ‘The Grandparents at CHA.’ They have no children or grandchildren attending, no real reason to vest their time for the academy and it really shows their love for our community and wanting to see us succeed!’
Last year, when they returned after winter, We Care moved and needed a sign painted, so they stepped forward with brushes and did the job. The sign and new logo are now used in all of We Care correspondence and promotions.
This year, Sutter was looking to open an extension of We Care in the form of a food pantry called ‘We Care, We Feed’. But space is an issue in their current building. The Hoffman’ were contacted by a local volunteer who asked if they would be willing to donate a small building they owned in St. Helen. The rest is history as they agreed to the donation, and The Pantry opened last month. It’ already assisted more than 30 area families.
‘It’ all about staying busy and helping the town be successful,’ said the Hoffmans. ‘You get up in your 70s, retire, and do anything you can to keep from being a couch potato. It’ really no big deal to do these things. It’ just us, living our lives. This is a great community and we are quite proud of being a part of it.’