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.
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.
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. ”
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.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.