Eden Prairie World War II veteran receives updates to home from three charitable organizations

Volunteers who worked on Hoffman’s house stand with him. (Submitted photo)
Volunteers who worked on Hoffman’s house stand with him. (Submitted photo)
When it rains, it pours. More often than not, that phrase pertains to a flood of ill fortune, but that’s not the case for Eden Prairie resident Ralph Hoffman.

Thanks to the combined efforts of a slew of volunteers from three different organizations, Hoffman, a World War II veteran, received several renovations ex gratia to his home.

“I’m not used to this kind of treatment — I don’t expect it,” said Hoffman. “And suddenly, the rain falls on me, and I have to accept it. That’s the way life is.”

A couple weeks ago, Hoffman reached out to Eden Prairie’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon for help changing a furnace filter. With limited flexibility at age 91, Hoffman contacted the veteran-focused organization with just that simple request, having no way of knowing the deluge of kindness it would touch off.

That call was fielded by Bill Hottel, who visited Hoffman’s house to change the filter.

“I was going through the house to do the filter, and I noticed he had a need for some other things to be taken care of,” said Hottel. “As we were going through the house, it became apparent that he has some difficulty with the stairs.”

Hottel said everything snowballed from there. Between Hottel’s efforts and contributions of money, time and materials from Camp Gratitude, the Home Depot Foundation and the Chanhassen Legion, the group of do-gooders were able to furnish Hoffman with a chair lift, updated flooring and heat for an upstairs bathroom.

Other improvements, among them a fresh coat of paint on the walls of the house’s main floor, smoke detectors and other code-related measures, were made as well.

“When I met Bill, he saw me walk up the stairs one step at a time, and he said, ‘You need that motor,’” recalled Hoffman. “So he got together with the people at the Legion, and they voluntarily put that money up for that.”

The chair lift greatly increased Hoffman’s mobility within his own home, and the other improvements contributed to the livability as well.

“Basically what we did is we gave his house back to him,” said Hottel.

Volunteers from the Home Depot Foundation paint the lower level of Ralph Hoffman’s house. (Photo by Bill Hottel)
Volunteers from the Home Depot Foundation paint the lower level of Ralph Hoffman’s house. (Photo by Bill Hottel)
Completed in a flurry of activity spanning several days, the updates have left Hoffman in a state of flummoxed gratitude.

“I’m trying to think of all the plays in this deal — people were flying all over the place,” said Hoffman. “Home Depot has been unbelievably accommodating … I’ve never had this kind of treatment before, ever. It’s like winning the lottery.”

According to Hottel, the volunteers were happy to help Hoffman. As a member of Eden Prairie’s Beyond the Yellow Ribbon and the founder of Camp Gratitude, helping veterans is his forte.

“What we try to do is, within the community, [address] needs for our veterans and their families,” said Hottel. “He is pleased and overwhelmed with the kindness, and the community coming together for someone who’s done so much for all of us.”

Hoffman emphasized the kindness that had been displayed was above and beyond what he had seen or experienced himself.

Ralph Hoffman (center) sits with Bill Hottel (right) of Camp Gratitude and Eden Prairie Beyond the Yellow Ribbon and Ron Schlangen of the Home Depot Foundation, two organizations that charitably renovated Hoffman’s house. (Sun Current staff photo by Sean Miner)
Ralph Hoffman (center) sits with Bill Hottel (right) of Camp Gratitude and Eden Prairie Beyond the Yellow Ribbon and Ron Schlangen of the Home Depot Foundation, two organizations that charitably renovated Hoffman’s house. (Sun Current staff photo by Sean Miner)
“I’m not used to this,” he said. “I’m not just not used to it. I’ve never run into this kind of people, who knock themselves out to be nice. They’re unusual people. They’re outstanding people.”

Contact Sean Miner at [email protected]