Volunteers do make a difference.
Don Hoppe believes that so much he joined Faith in Action for Cass County as a board member a year after he started volunteering in January of 2017 with the Hackensack-based nonprofit.
“Mostly, my volunteering is in driving,” Hoppe said. “I’ve worked at some of the fundraisers, and I’ve worked on (building) a couple of ramps, but I’m not a handyman. There are other people that can do a lot better job at that.”
The husband and father of two retired from his job in 2014. He worked for Cass County’s management information system department as a geographic information system technician.
“Transportation is really important for many people in Cass County because we have no bus system … virtually no way to get around unless you have a car or you know someone that does,” Hoppe said.
Theresa Eclov is the executive director of Faith in Action for Cass County, a locally supported charitable organization. She said the nonprofit’s nearly 100 volunteers last year helped more than 330 individuals in Cass County.
“If you have a medical appointment that requires that you not drive home, you need somebody to take you. Or if you’re an older adult and you’ve had to give up your keys, you are constantly relying on people to drive you because you can’t hire anybody,” Eclov said. “There are no taxis.”
Hoppe belongs to Union Congregational Church, and Faith in Action in Cass County began through the Hackensack church, according to Hoppe.
“I knew the people who had started it,” said Hoppe, who is the chair of the board of financial stewardship at his church. “I knew a lot of people who had volunteered. … I knew what the program was, and what it did. And I really thought it was an important program.”
Hoppe, a former Peace Corps volunteer, has provided more than 500 hours of services with Faith in Action, helping over 50 people, according to Eclov.
“It’s fun,” said Hoppe, a 73-year-old resident of Hiram Township. “I’m meeting other people, and — except for maybe one time — they’ve all been just lovely people. I enjoy meeting them, and I really enjoy it when I have to drive them again, or I see them again.”
"It’s fun. I’m meeting other people, and — except for maybe one time — they’ve all been just lovely people. I enjoy meeting them, and I really enjoy it when I have to drive them again, or I see them again."
— Don Hoppe, Faith in Action for Cass County volunteer driver
Faith in Action for Cass County coordinates volunteers who provide nonmedical, neighborly assistance to seniors, the disabled and people in need throughout Cass County, which means Hoppe gets to meet all sorts of people.
“I think Don would call himself kind of an introvert. He is a person who likes to do bird watching and get outdoors and do hiking, and he has told me that getting out and driving people has been one of his ways of connecting with his community and meeting new people,” Eclov said.
Faith in Action volunteers help with transportation, friendly visiting, respite for caregivers, light homemaking and chores, and basic home repair, and they build accessibility ramps.
“These volunteer drivers, for the residents of Cass County, are just invaluable,” Eclov said of the lack of transportation options in the county. “If a person does not have a family member or a friend who can help them with a ride, they don’t get to go anywhere — they can’t.”
"These volunteer drivers, for the residents of Cass County, are just invaluable. If a person does not have a family member or a friend who can help them with a ride, they don’t get to go anywhere — they can’t."
— Theresa Eclov, executive director of Faith in Action for Cass County
Hoppe recently received a $20 gas card from Southside Station in Hackensack as a token of appreciation from Faith in Action for Cass County for his selfless service.
“Our volunteer drivers are a lifeline for so many people,” Eclov said. “Our drivers, here, last year — with all the COVID shutdowns — provided almost 2,500 rides last year. And the year before it was closer to 4,000.”
Faith in Action for Cass County plans to highlight volunteers several times a month throughout 2021 as a way to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Volunteers will be recognized for their services and awarded $20 gas cards and other prizes.
“Not only is it that I feel that I’m doing something good, but I feel it’s fun for me,” Hoppe said of chauffeuring people around.
Hoppe also sits on the board of the Hackensack Lions Club and is involved in the Cass County chapter of the Izaak Walton League, one of America’s oldest conservation organizations. But he said he is most involved with Faith in Action for Cass County and his church.
“I plan to continue volunteering and being involved with Faith in Action until I feel like I can’t or when I can no longer do it,” Hoppe said.