President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, have helped build, renovate and repair 4,390 homes in 14 countries on behalf of Habitat for Humanity.
Kathy Hoffman? Not quite that many. Maybe 40 homes. But, in reaching 70 years old, Hoffman still has 26 years to catch up with the oldest living president. And what's to stop her? Some 25 years into participating in "builds" for Solano-Napa Habitat for Humanity, Hoffman doesn't see an end in sight.
"Hopefully, I can do it until I'm 80," Hoffman said by phone earlier this week.
While still joyfully participating in a Habitat renovation or build, Hoffman stakes her place at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Fairfield, where proceeds go toward funding home construction.
Hoffman says Solano-Napa Habitat for Humanity celebrating its 30th anniversary this month is a proud moment for all volunteers and staff.
She remembers when she first volunteered for Habitat a quarter-century ago.
"Probably like a lot of people, I heard of it through the publicity that came with the Carters' involvement," Hoffman said. "I must have thought at the time, 'That sounds like fun.'"
When a Vallejo home was renovated on Eleanor Street, "I grabbed my hammer and showed up and the rest is history," Hoffman said.
And she never stopped.
"I enjoy the people and the mission of helping people get affordable homes," Hoffman said.
Volunteers are often 9-to-5 office workers who "get a big thrill out of being part of build projects," Hoffman said.
Through the years, "I've worked on and off on builds. With most of them, there's always been a struggle to raise money to build a home," said Hoffman, who has participated in many Contra Costa builds as well as Solano.
The most recent project was a Rio Vista veterans home. Because of COVID-19, the dedication was virtual "and more people attended the virtual dedication than ones that are in person, which was nice," said Hoffman, who has an eye on a three-home Fairfield project starting in late spring or summer plus a home in Vacaville.
For the last four or five years, Habitat for Humanity has done improvements at the Veterans Home in Yountville, partnering with Home Depot and the Tug McGraw Foundation.
Through 25 years of building and renovating homes, Hoffman said she's never been injured, laughing that "I'm constantly nicking myself at ReStore."
At the build sites, safety protocol is constant, Hoffman says.
Sometimes, she added, the reaction from the new homeowners — or those who had a home renovated by Habitat — are memorable.
"Mostly, it's the veterans," Hoffman said. "We had one who was in one of the new homes in Rio Vista who looked at the home and cried. Some veterans tell us their life stories. One woman veteran was homeless and she was so happy to get a permanent home."
Many vets, especially those with PTSD, do better surrounded by other veterans so there's a push for more "group housing," Hoffman said, hoping for more vets homes in Benicia and Vallejo.
Solano-Napa Habitat for Humanity reaching 30 years is worthy of recognition, especially all the volunteers, Hoffman said, "because we couldn't do this without our volunteers."
ReStore, where people can purchase a plethora of home items from appliances to washing machines, a 10-year milestone was reached with Hoffman working a usual 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. shift three or four days a week.
Because of COVID-19, ReStore limits the number of people inside at one time.
"On certain days, people are lined up outside and people would see the line thinking, 'What's going on?'" said Hoffman, elated that "we have finally gotten to the point where we're really stable."
When Hoffman joined the Solano-Napa Habitat for Humanity board of directors 17 years ago, "there were a couple of years where we came close to considering whether we'd have to shut down. We just weren't bringing in any money."
Hoffman does have one regret: She never met Carter, though she came so close when the former president participated in an Oakland Habitat for Humanity build about 10 years ago.
As a fundraiser, it cost $1,000 to meet and work alongside the Carters, said Hoffman.
She didn't go and, looking back, "I could kick myself," Hoffman said, adding that even if the 96-year-old Carter "hammers a nail and leaves" a Habitat project, it's inspiring.
"He sure is amazing," Hoffman said.
For more, visit solanonapahabitat.org.
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