Deacon recognized for charity in the community

TYRONE – Deacon Jack Hoffer doesn’t think it is a big deal that he does volunteer work for numerous organizations across the area.

“I am a vocational deacon. In the Episcopal church, that is what deacons do,” said Hoffer, deacon in residence at Trinity Episcopal Church. “They are charged with identifying and bringing to the church the needs of the community. It is my desire to be as helpful as I can to the people in need. What I do is to help people in difficult situations. We strive to be the heart and hands of Jesus Christ in the community.”

Hoffer has made his mark in Tyrone since becoming deacon in residence at the church in January 2011.

He is director of the Tyrone Food Bank and coordinator of the volunteer meals program at the First Presbyterian Church. He is president of Woodrow Wilson Garden and serves on the board of both Sylvan Acres and Washington Terrace in Tyrone.

He also is active with numerous other organizations outside of Tyrone. For 11 years, he has served as cook on Sundays for the soup kitchen at the Salvation Army in Altoona. He also has served on the Blair County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Prison Society and has spearheaded efforts to bring about 4,000 books to the Blair County Prison.

Hoffer became a deacon later in his life after hearing a talk by an archdeacon about raising deacons in the church at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Altoona in 2004.

“He asked the people to write down the names of people who would make good deacons, and my name came up. That gave me the incentive to start the process,” Hoffer said.

“We knew from the get-go he was golden; he always was very special,” said Nanette Anslinger, a member of the discernment committee at St. Luke’s. “It was evident he was called. He personifies the definition of a deacon, a servant of God. He is one of the most incredible servants of God I ever met.”

Hoffer became a deacon in 2007 and served at St. Luke’s until moving to Tyrone.

Hoffer, who grew up in Duncansville and graduated from Hollidaysburg High School in 1963, had a successful career in medical laboratory management before becoming a deacon.

He knew from a young age he wanted a career in science. He called his high school biology teacher Joan Runk one of his mentors.

After high school, Hoffer, one of eight children of Maurice and Mary Ellen Hoffer, attended Franklin School of Science and Arts in Philadelphia for one year to study laboratory work.

He worked for two years in a commercial lab in Philadelphia and went into the Air Force in 1966 where he served until 1970. Then he went to Penn State and graduated in 1973 with a degree in medical laboratory science.

During his time in the Air Force – he was stationed at a hospital in Riverside, Calif., where he worked in the laboratory – he had an encounter with former President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was vacationing in Palm Springs.

“President Eisenhower had a heart attack, and I got to draw blood on him,” Hoffer recalled.

After graduating from Penn State, Hoffer worked from 1973 to 1977 in the laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania Hospital in Philadelphia before moving to New York City in 1977.

He obtained a job in the blood bank at Sloan Kettering Hospital, the world famous cancer center.

“It was a wonderful experience. I started as a night tech and ended up as manager of the blood bank there,” Hoffer said.

While at Sloan Kettering, he wrote most of the specifications for the first automated blood bank computer system, which is now used in about 300 facilities.

In 1992, he moved to the New York Blood Center where he managed the laboratory and got the opportunity to work with Dr. Marian Reed, a world-class immunohematologist.

“The best thing she said was, ‘I have you here running the lab, so I can concentrate on my research and not worry about the customers,'” Hoffer said.

Hoffer returned home in 2000 and didn’t work for nine months.

“I realized I wasn’t being helpful by not working. I heard that Conemaugh [Memorial Medical Center] was looking for a blood bank manager and worked there from 2001 to 2008,” Hoffer said.

In 2012, Hoffer, who is also a visiting instructor at Mount Aloysius College and teaches a course in immunohematology and serology, was named winner of the Ecumenism Award by the Ecumenical Conference of Greater Altoona. Today he is vice president of he organization.

Hoffer was a deserving recipient.

“He doesn’t say much, but he is always doing,” said Tom Irwin, a member of the Blair County Chapter of the Pennsylvania Prison Society. “When you look at Jack, you wonder what motivates him. He doesn’t care if he gets any credit. He is such a good guy. If you need anything, call Jack, and he will get it done. He is a real gift to the community.”

“He is so gentle and so powerful. What is amazing is he seems so shy, but there is a presence that is so accomplished,” said Cindy Baney, conference president. “He is not about himself but about being in the world, a gentle spirit.”

Hoffer was honored to receive the award.

“They recognized the work that I had done. I don’t like to have attention drawn to me, but I was very honored. It validated the work that I am doing,” Hoffer said.

Hoffer, 68, said he has no plans to slow down and hopes people will remember him favorably.

“I want to be remembered as a faithful pilgrim,” Hoffer said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.