Everyday Hero: Mike “Loco” Hoffman of Staten Island

If you were to ask Staten Island native Mike “Loco” Hoffman about his contributions to the ongoing Sandy Relief efforts, he’d tell you he’s just doing his part to help, that he’s nothing special.  But to the thousands of affected residents of New Dorp and Midland, this gentle giant is nothing less than a hero.

mike “loco” hoffman – a man who’s become a hero to many

I met Mike a couple weeks ago while I was downstate volunteering as a Sandy relief worker.  Here was this big imposing tough guy, smiling and giving hugs as he orchestrated volunteers and comforted storm survivors.   What really impressed me was the way he went about things.  Mike saw to it that everything was prioritized based on need and circumstance; a family with a seriously ill child would be higher on the list for generator access than a house of healthy young adults.    Working tirelessly since the superstorm came ashore, he’s a relief leader and morale coach for some of the island’s hardest hit neighborhoods.  Corralling labor volunteers, running area shelters, repairing homes, delivering supplies… Mike Hoffman ensures that no need – no matter how great or how small – goes unmet on his watch.

It’s Just Who He Is:

Known as “Loco” to his friends, Hoffman first made a name for himself as a high school football star at both Port Richmond and Curtis.  Destined for collegiate D-1 greatness, Mike’s dreams were cut short when his mother was diagnosed with brain cancer.  Choosing to care for her while placing his own ambition on hold wasn’t a choice for Mike, it was an instinct. Putting the needs of others far before his own is just who he is.

On the surface he seems like a normal guy: he and wife Amaury have been happily married for more than a decade, they have four beautiful children.  “Coach Hoffman,” as he’s known to many, has volunteered for the last seven years with Staten Island youth football and baseball teams.

But normal as we know it is long gone in the post-Sandy world of Staten Island.  Putting down a team roster and picking up a volunteer contact sheet, Mike does what he’s best at: stepping up to the plate to help those around him.

 

mike “loco” hoffman – doing a lot of heavy lifting, physically and emotionally, to help those around him

 

Rolling Up His Sleeves

Every single day he’s out there working hard.  Digging out homes in areas where flood waters reached heights of twelve feet, delivering donated generators to families in need, demo, ripouts, cleaning up the mud and muck left behind from the storm surge, collecting and distributing donated supplies – if it needs to be done, he’ll pitch in and make it happen.  He’s even gotten his whole family involved.  All of his kids have been out to volunteer with him, even his youngest, who made a huge impact on Midland residents. He’s been on the news and in the streets educating others of the many abounding risks, including: electrocution hazards, structurally unsound homes, debris and dust inhalation, infectious illness from unsanitary conditions, growing mold in waterlogged buildings, hypothermia, muscle-strain, violent looters, and even the ever-increasing issue of disaster-scams.

I so admire the work Mike has been doing, I wanted to get involved in any way I could.  Before I left Staten Island on my last day there, I made him an offer:  “when I get back home and I have Internet access, power, a fully charged cell phone – I’ll help you in anyway I can. ”

I’ve been back in Western New York for just over a week, and I’ve kept good on my promise.  (Little did I know what I was getting into!).   He jokingly calls me his PR-rep, but really I’m like his secretary or an assistant.  We’ve become a little team: he’s boots on the ground, and I’m the desk jockey.   As Mike does labor, canvasses neighborhoods, distributes supplies, I do the office work of calling elected officials, posting online requests for volunteers, tracking down people who can help, and so on.  I’m so happy to pitch in any way I can, and if my end of things makes Mike more effective – that’s a win for all of us.

loco, organizing volunteers and assigning work that needs to be done

 

 

In His Own Words:

This evening, I asked Mike what the biggest need is now:

“As of now, the biggest need is getting the word out.  It’s not a hot topic anymore, people have gotten tired of hearing about it.  The news coverage has dropped off and people are already forgetting about us, they’ve moved on.  Everyone came out and pitched in for a week or two – and while that was great, this thing is far from over for us.  We need volunteers, we need donations, we need help!  And this goes for people here too, if your house got worked on, go help your neighbors out.  There’s still so much work to do, we all need to rally now and keep going.”

 

Reflecting on how people are coping:

“A lot of people didn’t know what their neighbors’ names were before this thing happened, and now they’re checking in on each other.  I’ve heard plenty of stories about that, people didn’t even know who lived across the street, and now they’re checking in with one another all the time – ‘Hey Mr. Jenkins, I’m going down to get some hot food.  Do you need anything?’ – they’re working together now, we’re all in this thing together.”

 

Why he does what he does:

“When the landlord calls me, I’m disheartened.  When I see the bills piling up, it’s discouraging.  But then,  I look around and I’m motivated.   I won’t let my personal problems get in the way of what my heart is telling me to do.”

“I just want to lead by example.  My kids look up to me, I’m their role model, and I know they’re going to grow up to be good people – and that’s all I need.  All of my kids have been out there and pitched in, and that means so much to me.  My little nine year old came out and he was a saint – I was worried about his little lungs, so I had him all decked out in the mask and everything – and he was just a firecracker he had so much energy.  He was asking people what they needed, and he was so excited to get it.  He swept the whole street, it was amazing.  It made me feel good as a father.  And then when he wrote that message on the generator it just broke me down, I got emotional.”

the sweet message loco’s youngest son wrote on a generator: we are there for you! Johnny5 son of Mike Hoffman, a help for our nation.

 

Get Involved! 

If you want to get to know Mike for yourself, and keep up with all the great work he does, check him out on Facebook (Mike Loco Hoffman) and Twitter (@TheMikeLoco).   You can also contact him directly: 917.548.0523 or mikeloco@msn.com to see what his needs are on any given day.  Right now volunteers, specifically for labor, tools, and any supplies/gear that can help out labor crews are in big demand.  Hard hats, goggles, work gloves, dust masks, sledge hammers, axes, shovels, wheelbarrows, crowbars, pry bars – any of those items would be a huge help.

Acquiring tools is really very hard and hanging on to them seems to be even harder.  They’re expensive to pay for, so it takes a lot of money to get just a few things.  Luckily, donations of great tools have come in and Mike’s been able to get access to some.  They just don’t seem to last long, though.  Of course, many items are one-use only or get worn out quickly.  As far as the big and pricey tools, they’re constantly getting stolen.  Mike hasn’t been able to transport them all to his home every night where he can safeguard them – so this has been an ongoing problem.

Some donations have been rounded up, and we’ve been able to rent a truck for Mike!  It’s a U-Haul type truck that he can safely store the tools in and keep locked.  As of now, there were enough donations to cover the cost of the truck for a week.   We’re looking for help keeping it rented – or funding of some kind of storage container that securely locks.

Even if you just wish Mike well and give him some positivity and encouragement – that would be great!

As always, I want to thank you for reading!  I know it’s been a lot of Sandy talk lately, and that for some people hearing about the topic so much is tiresome.  For far too many people there is no escaping this topic though – they’re living it.  And it’s for them that I keep talking about it, and it’s for them that I ask you keep listening, reading, and spreading the word.  The more we all pitch in, the faster affected people can get their lives back in order.

 

XOXO, HHR

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Sandy Relief: So You Wanna Help? Here’s How NOW…

Hi Everyone!

me, all strapped up to do work!

I’ve been here all week working and helping and it’s been a lot of things: crazy, intense, and amazing to see the strength and resilience of those who have been hit the hardest.  I don’t have time for a full-fledged update right now, but I wanted to make sure to get the word out about a few things.

Check out this post I published on Snoo.ws to read about what I’ve been doing. (I work for ICUC, and Snoo.ws is ICUC’s blog – it’s part of my job!).  Also, look for me on social media (www.facebook.com/rose.m.duggan and @RadRoseDuggan) to see pics!

If you want to help now, the needs have shifted from what originally was asked for.  Canned foods and clothing have rolled into NY and NJ in surplus amounts.  So hang on to your winter coat, there are other ways to help.

typical scene on staten island in hardhit areas

NEEDS:

People still do NOT have power.  Their needs are: generators, gas, extension cords, batteries of ALL sizes, flashlights, candles, lighters, head lamps.  Portable stoves or ways to cook without power is rad as well.  And can openers!  Cans everywhere and yet… no way to open them without making a mess.

Homes that have been flooded MUST be gutted, stripped and re-built.  Any TOOLS are needed, work gloves – I cannot stress enough the importance of work gloves and dust masks / respirators.  Shovels of all kinds, axes, sledge hammers, crowbars, the suits you can wear over your clothes to protect your skin from insulation fibers – WORK GLOVES, DUST MASKS.

The air is full of debris and dust from all the demo – it’s crazy.

Clean up: In homes where the storm surged flooded the entire basement and first floor, there is this black mucky mud everywhere you can see.  BLEACH is a needed item.  BLEACH, please send BLEACH!!!  There is also a profound need for cleaners of all kinds, rubber gloves, mops, brooms, scrub brushes, sponges, rags, towels, paper towels or shop towels. Buckets, mops, mops, mops. and BLEACH!

Moving stuff around: If it has wheels, it can be used.  Bags, backpacks, luggage – anything that people without access to cars and gas can use to get around and get supplies around. Wagons and wheelbarrows, bikes, etc. have become necessary entities.

SENDING MONEY:

Of course groups like The Red Cross and other big names have been helping.

If you’re looking for smaller, more direct organizations to get involved with, I would suggest looking for grass roots agents.  The people-driven, community based groups are having a profound impact.  Local restaurants have been donating food and coffee – you could call a locally owned coffee shop in a hardhit area and offer to sponsor coffee for a day to relief workers.

My favorites are:

192 Ebbitts Street, Staten Island NY.  You could send Home Depot, Walmart, K-mart, or Visa/Mastercard gift cards to this address, with “care of Gina” or “care of Frank” on the envelope, and people who can help will be able to get in touch.  Another great contact point for grassroots work is a man named Mike “Loco” Hoffman – find him on Fb or on Twitter @TheMikeLoco.

The Unitarian Church of Staten Island: 312 Fillmore Street  New York, NY 10301; (718) 447-2204 has also been amazing.  Check them out on Fb: https://www.facebook.com/uucsi?fref=ts

Occupy Sandy has been an incredible force in organizing people and dispatching volunteers to where it’s most needed.

And of course, FDNY and NYPD have been helping around the clock.  This Fb group, FDNY Incidents, has been helping people meet needs as well: https://www.facebook.com/FdnyIncidents?fref=ts

And finally… THE HOLIDAYS

I’ll be working on a grassroots project we’ve dubbed “Sandy Claus” working to bring Christmas, Hanukkah  and the holidays to kids/families who’ve been affected by Sandy.  We’ll be working out ways to connect donors to those who could use some cheer.  Stand by in the next week or so for info on that idea to develop!  I will let everyone know.

 

 

THANK YOU so much to all who’ve shown support, interest, love… all your kind thoughts, prayers, donations and LOVE have gone so far down here.

I’ll check back in soon with more pics and with stories I’ve been hearing all week. 

Sandy Relief: How I’m helping, what you can do, lists, info, + more.

It’s been a busy weekend of emails, calls, and pulling things together.  My little mission to help out Sandy Survivors is actually coming together.  I’m pretty impressed with myself, not gonna lie.  I think that after living in Florida for two and a half decades, dealing with hurricanes is just in my blood, it’s a normal part of life to me.  And well, if you don’t know by now that I tend to be the take-action-do-gooder type, well then you hardly know me at all.

Generous hearts make the world go ’round.  And coming into contact with truly generous people who are so excited and happy to give is a truly humbling experience.

i’m so grateful to anyone and everyone who’s pitching in to help.

When I started the tiny idea to see what I could do to help the Sandy Relief efforts, I had no idea what to expect.  The call for supplies, donations, and any kind of help went out all over the Interwebs.  I’ve posted on Craig’s List Buffalo, reddit, Facebook, all kinds of organization’s Fb pages, Twitter, and more.  And well it hasn’t been a downpour of support, there’s been more than a trickle and it’s really exciting.

i stand by my cheesy lil’ logo!

A few people have chipped in some financial support, I have a pal for the car ride down who will be staying in the NYC-area long term to do clean up work wherever she’s needed, and I have a couple helpful people found out about my plans online and have been putting together donations that we can bring with us.

TWO AMAZING STORES have generously donated items to the effort as well:

Smith’s True Valu in Irving, NY and the Sears Hometown Store here in Fredonia (just down the street from where I live) have been super awesome.  Once we get this whole thing underway, we’ll give them official shout outs and post photos of the items they provided.  We’re hoping in the next day or so to find some more stores will to donate supplies, or at least cut us a break on the cost of items.

NEEDS LIST:

thanks to mj for the link to this awesome list!

The clean up efforts are paramount right now, and thus some things in huge demand are:

  • dust masks
  • gloves – rubber, work, leather, all kinds
  • mops, mops, mops
  • paper towels, regular towels, shop towels
  • tools of any kind, the smaller and more mobile – the better (and remember, power in nonexistent or limited), crowbars, screwdrivers, hammers
  • work boots in all sizes
  • contractor-style garbage bags
  • tarps, plastic sheeting
  • duct tape, rope, zip ties
  • garbage bags
  • gas cans
  • food, formula, water, snacks, OTC meds
  • winter clothing, blankets, bedding
  • and finally – stuff for kids to occupy the boredom and help life their spirits: toys, games, etc.

If you have any desire to get these items to me, I’m more than happy to take them to NYC for you.  There are plenty of grassroots efforts of people who I personally know can use and need these items right away – with zero overhead going to “operating costs,”  just straight from the shelves of stores into the hands of those who need them.  If you trust me, paypal some cash money my way: happyhippierose@gmail.com is my paypal handle!

If you’d like to send your own care packs, there are several places that you can ship stuff to:

Warehouse donated as in-take center

New York Container Terminal
Attn: Sandy Relief Warehouse
300 Western Avenue
Staten Island, NY  10303
or

Staten Island Recreational Association
599 Fr. Capodanno Blvd.
Staten Island, NY 10305
Attn: Megan Delmar

….

she seemed so nice at first, but woah did she turn out to be a super bitch!

As many of you know, Duggs (my husband) grew up on Long Island.  His family and friends have been seriously impacted by this storm.  My brother-in-law, and mother-in-law are both still displaced, and unable to return home,  In fact, since we have so many loved ones from Long Beach it’s crazy to try and name everyone and explain the carious states of disarray their lives are in right now.   If you’d like to give money to the Long Beach recovery effort –  here’s a great group:

City of Long Beach Relief
One West Chester Street
Long Beach, NY 11561

There are TONS of groups using Facebook and Social Media to get the word out.  Some great resources to learn more are:

So. Whatever you end up doing – be it making a huge donation to the Red Cross or just sending well-wishes and prayers to those affected, every contribution is wonderful and they all work together and come together to help put things all back together.  Major disasters like this are so terrible, so many lives are just ripped apart, and millions of people are experiencing high levels of stress, sadness, anger, devastation, and more.

Yet… time and time again we see in the darkest of days the most startling displays of true beauty.  Strangers coming together to help each other out, true generosity and kindness, we see helping hands and warm hugs given out freely.   There’s no time machine or magic eraser that can un-do the tragedy… sadly, what’s done is done.  But when given the option of HOW to react, seeing everyday people pick the good, noble, wonderful choice – is an amazing thing to bear witness to.

For everyone who is suffering: you have my warmest thoughts and prayers, as well as my sincere encouragement.

For everyone who is helping:  you have my gratitude and thanks, you are awesome and inspiring.

For everyone who doesn’t know what to do: listen to your heart and you can’t go wrong.

Thanks for reading, y’all!  The donations, support, and well wishes my little caravan have been given are truly inspiring.  And my only hope is that we do some good and help out as many people as we possibly can.  Want to help?  Paypal me some moolah, and I promise it will go to great use:  happyhippierose@gmail.com 

XOXO, HHR