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

Advertisements

Photos of Sandy

Hi Readers!

a crew i worked with doing ripouts and demo on homes

I’m back in Western New York now.  And while I have so many stories to tell about what I’ve seen and experienced down state in the hardhit areas of Hurricane-Superstorm Sandy – I’m also super busy with work and real life.   I know I’ll carve out some time to publish some well-worded stories about my time there.  And I’d also love to report on the everyday heroics I witnessed, the amazing people I met, and I want to express to others around the nation and world just how serious the situation is there.

It’s BAD.

So much work is yet to be done.  So much help is still greatly needed.

taking a quick break one day in staten island

 

push it real good – going uphill with a cart full of supplies to be delivered to homes

 

I’m going to run for now.  But should you be interested in checking out my photos from Staten Island and Long Beach, I’ll post the links to the public albums.

Staten Island Facebook Album

Long Beach Facebook Album

Thanks for reading – and please keep the folks of NY and NJ in your hearts and prayers.  They need all the love and assistance we can muster.

XOXO, HHR

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: NYC-ready, Generosity of Others Has Helped Me Pack!

It’s official.  Any grown man who kindly chuckles when you refer to the industrial strength push brooms inside a Home Depot as, “elephant toothbrushes,” should probably be nominated for sainthood.  Or at least get some kind of Newbery Medal or something.  (Oh calm down, I know what the Newbery Medal is… and seriously, I believe that push-broom humor is way better than Across Five Aprils – just sayin’).

the only feasible use for such an item is cleaning the teeth of an elephant.

What the HECK am I rambling on about? The final hours of prep are behind me and I’m all but ready to hit the road and head down to NYC and pitch in where I can to help with any Sandy Relief efforts.  I’m a little bit loopy (last night’s all-nighter is catching up with me, yes) and a lot excited.  The past week has been a really amazing time for me… and for humankind.   In just a few short days my idea to help a little with the Sandy Relief efforts going on downstate have evolved into a full out movement, with support coming in from so many directions.  Strangers and loved ones alike have been digging deep to give all that they can, trusting me to make wise choices and do as much good as possible, the most humanitarian bang for their buck.   And here we are… it’s just about go time, and I’m simply dazzled by the goodness of people and the love all over this.

I mean, I know it’s not all rainbows and puppies, of course.  I have kept in mind why on earth I’m doing all this in the first place.  Hurricane Sandy was a whopper.  And while she was slamming the coast, and in her aftermath, there’s been the entire gamut of human emotion left in her wake.  We’ve heard some stories in the news, on social media, and through the grapevine about people being pretty nasty to one another (and well, it’s election day tomorrow – so we’ve been hearing about the worst of humanity in smear campaigns for months now)… but right now I want to pay attention to the shinier side of that coin.

Tonight friends, this is a story about hope. 

(And even if it’s kinda wordy and long, I think it’s really a good read.)

This is a story about the kindness and heart of people who want to help, and who mean well, and who are willing to do good.

I really had NO idea what I was getting myself into when I volunteered to start pooling together donations.  Truth be told, I thought I’d be shipping some boxes downstate and that would be that.  But now as I know I have a car chock full of love, a new friend for the journey, plenty more to meet before it’s all said and done, and a race against time and mother nature to do as much good as we can – I’m just honored to be a part of this.

Skip is the man I was talking about up top.  He’s a saint.  He just so happened to be working his usual post in our local Fredonia Home Depot tonight when I came in with a long list of ideas and very little clue about the specifics of what I needed.  When I was on the phone asking silly questions about the kinds of masks and what type of broom, Skip decided I needed some help.  He grabbed a cart, did all the heavy lifting, and walked back and forth across that Home Depot with me so many times.  And when I made my ridiculous jokes, he had the wonderful decency to laugh.  He downright chuckled a couple times, like when I suggested splurging on the hot pink duct tape and letting the homeowners deal with it.  Heh.

After Skip helped me to find the best deals, and explained to me the subtle differences between hand cleaners and crow bars, and plastic vs wood handles on tools – I had to sprint out to the parking lot.

skip, helping me shop with good natured patience

 

skip is the best!

 

Because, simultaneously, as I was getting goods at Home Depot to help in the hard labor (all covered through donations, mind you) – out in the parking lot I was meeting up with an Angel.  Kathy, from a local Catholic church in town, went so far out of her way to help me.  I called around to churched today to see if any places had stores of clothing or blankets, and while mane did not – a lady who happened to be working at one such place offered to do me one better.  “I can clean out my house when I get out of work tonight.”  She brought EIGHT  GARBAGE BAGS… yes, EIGHT full bags of winter clothing, boots, and more.  Kids sizes of all kinds, and stuff for teenagers and adults too.

Yup.  Kathy and her family are going down for Sainthood as well.

kathy, thank you so much! tell your kids we appreciate their work and generosity as well!

And this, she explained to me, was her just getting started!  She said she could do more with some extra time… (speaking of which, hold that thought, we have some ideas in the works for long-term projects to keep taking care of those hardest hit long after the media circus dies down and their lives are still left in pieces).

Skip and Kathy are just two of the amazing people who are making this journey possible.  The kind and generous owners, Edward W. Pagano, Jr. and his wife, of our Fredonia Sears hometown store – they’re sending me to Staten Island with 50 pairs of work gloves, and at least 30 dust masks, water bottles, and more.  Sears as a company already donated to Sandy, this is from two small-business owners in the community, just wanting to do their part to help.  The folks at Smith’s True Value in Irving donated a lot as well, gloves and masks too, plastic sheeting, and other supplies.

the first store to get into the spirit and donate to me

peeking into one of the bags from smith’s true value

 

My friends have been putting money into my paypal account, offering to help in any way they can.

IT TAKES A VILLAGE, Y’ALL.

And just being at the epicenter of so much love, hope, teamwork, and true humanity is honestly one of the most inspiring things I’ve ever experienced.  

I’m meeting a brand new friend tomorrow morning at about 6:00am.   Her name is Kate, and she’s going on this adventure with me! About forty miles from here she’s been experiencing the good of her own “village,” getting donations and all kinds of items ready to go as well.  She’s keeping me company on the ride down and then we’re rolling up our sleeves and getting to work.

Others have called to talk about rides if I go again, or more items I can bring back next time.  I’ve been asked where to send things to, and people have just been WANTING to help.  It’s all so… AMAZING.

Don’t get me wrong.  Hurricane Sandy and the destruction she’s brought to this state, the coastline, and our nation is just jaw-droppingly devastating.  We didn’t stumble upon a gold mine of warm fuzzy feelings unprovoked;  I’m sure that tomorrow as I set eyes on the aftermath for myself, it’s going  to take all this positive energy that’s been percolating to keep me going.  I’m sure there will be tough times to come, and for so many of our fellow brothers and sisters living in the thick of it all right now – they are in some of their darkest days.

All together though, we’ll help brighten things up.

With the thoughtfulness of the Skip, and the encouragement of Eddie (another Home Depot worker who was really kind and helpful, wishing us the best), with the love and nurturing of Kathy, and the warmth from Mary (a local church lady who’s donated some gorgeous handmade blankets for me to bring down)… the resourcefulness of Edward Pagano, Jr., his wife, and the folks at Smith’s True Value for finding so many items they could afford to spare, with the planning of my pal MJ who’s organizing street teams in Staten Island to get the work done… with all these efforts combined, and added to the countless other acts of love, giving, help, thoughtfulness, support, and hard work we are able to create our own force of nature.

home depot = success!

 

from handmade blankets to gas cans, tools, water, boots, and more – the buick is packed full of donations to hand out

We’re leaving very early in the morning, so I’ll just end things on a fabulous and inspiring note for now.

To everyone who has pitched in: THANK YOU, it means so much to me, and I KNOW it will mean so much to the countless lives we’re going to help as best as we can once we’re down there.  If you’ve been hard hit by the storm and you’re at your wit’s end… know that we love you, we’re thinking of you, and there are so many people – people you’ll never know and will never meet – that are doing all they can for you, and will keep at it until your needs are met and life as it should be, is restored. 

and here i am tonight, whizzing out of home depot – an excited (and yes, very very blurry) bundle of happy energy

Still interested?  We haven’t even left yet – gas and other costs are certain to come up.  Just simply wire me some funds via paypal using happyhippierose@gmail.com.  Any donations are appreciated, and I’ll make sure to post about how the money is spent and how much we’re able to do once we get into the hardest-hit areas.

Good night, God Bless, and tune back in to find out more about how this project all plays out!  I’ll post better pictures of what we’re brining when it’s light out tmrw, and of course you can always track me down on Fb or Twitter!

XOXO, HHR 

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