Posted Tuesday, December 22, 2015 by Shannon Hoffman

We Make a Life by What We Give

"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give."

- Winston Churchill

Northwoods is well known for the amazing products we provide for human services workers. Our products provide functionality that allow workers to capture information beyond what is required, yet make them more efficient in assisting the families who need them most.

And Northwoods’ people. Wow. You can't ask for a better group of people dedicated to our customers' needs. We will do anything we can to ensure that our products and solutions help make workers jobs easier. We want to understand everything about the life of a caseworker so we can support the worker.

This is how we make a living.

But, life is about so much more. "We make a life by what we give." Within Northwoods sits the Northwoods Foundation, an employee-run 501(c)3 organization funded by Northwoods ownership and employees. The mission of the Northwoods Foundation is to provide financial assistance to people in need in the communities in which Northwoods and its employees work and live. This is where the rubber meets the road. Where Northwoods steps up and differentiates itself from the norm.


Volunteers for DRIVEN's Food Outreach


Northwoods Foundation 5K

I've had the honor of serving on the Northwoods Foundation board for four of my six years at Northwoods, with the past two years as Board Chairperson. Each month, our five-person board meets to discuss assistance requests we've received from various sources. And each month, following our meeting, we all know we made a difference. We receive requests for one-time needs following a short term hardship, ranging from assistance with home expenses following a fire, to funeral expenses, to school supplies or employee fundraising.

Life is about giving back. It's about being great stewards of the resources we've been provided. As my term as Chairperson comes to an end, I wanted to share how proud I am of being a part of the Northwoods family and a few success stories from my time on the board.

Earlier this year, we partnered with My Very Own Blanket (MVOB), another non-profit organization dedicated to providing blankets for children in the foster care system. Northwoods assisted MVOB with funds to help fix sewing machines so they can continue with their mission.

We also had an opportunity to assist a family who’s home was destroyed by a fire. As I discussed the family's immediate needs with the mother, I was brought to tears knowing that they would have nowhere to turn if it wasn't for the Northwoods Foundation. We were able to help this family and provide relief as they transitioned to a new home.

For the seventh year in a row, I participated in DRIVEN's Food Outreach in Columbus. This is a favorite event throughout the year for my entire family - even our-16 year-old! The Food Outreach event provides a week's worth of meals to families in need. These families arrive early and wait in line for their box of food. There have been years when it is freezing cold, yet they spend their morning outside, waiting for food to feed their loved ones. They have been through hard times, but are so full of love and life. I've thoroughly enjoyed witnessing the gratitude shown by each individual. It's life changing to spend the day at this event.

One of the most touching stories was shared by a fellow board member. Christmas can be a stressful time for families who work hard just to stay afloat. So, the Foundation Board decided we were going to help make Christmas a bit brighter for the families we could reach. This story is about observing those around you and being there when you are needed. Below is an excerpt from the story he shared with us about his experience:

I went to Walmart last night. As I walked around the store, I felt somewhat intimidated to take on such a large task of helping a family; thinking to myself that I didn’t want to make the family feel bad, wondering if families that I saw really needed help or if I would find anyone at all on a Wednesday night at Walmart doing their Christmas shopping. It was only after a couple minutes that I spotted a woman who was by herself in the toy aisle; she would pick up an item, take it to the price scanner and then put it back, find another item, take it to the price scanner and then put it back. It was watching this woman’s actions for just a couple brief minutes that let me know that she was the one I was there to help. She walked out of the toy section and I kept an eye on her to make sure that I didn’t lose sight of her, so from afar I watched as she went to the outdoor department and began looking at coats. The same action took place – she picked up a coat, looked at the price tag, then sat it back on the rack, then another and then another.

As I approached her, I said a prayer in my head that she would allow us to help her and not feel embarrassed or ostracized by this act of kindness. I walked up to her and simply asked, “Ma’am, are you doing your Christmas shopping?” With tears swelling up in her eyes, she said, “Yes” seeming defeated and just overly tired. I then introduced myself and the Foundation and asked if we could help make Christmas a little brighter for her and her family. The look of astonishment that overcome this dear woman was overwhelming. After muttering on multiple occasions that this couldn’t be real and it couldn’t be happening to her, she obliged.

This sweet woman, in her late 30’s, was a mother of two of her own, and caretaker to 2 nieces and 2 nephews. Her sisters both suffer from addictions and their children have nowhere to turn, so this woman and her husband provide for them all. Humbly, she picked out only one gift per child. I asked that she pick up those things that she looked at but then put back and that I would meet her at the front of the store to check out. With tears rolling down her face as she approached the front of the store, she did not pick up extra toys for the kids or electronics, but a coat for each of them.

This is how you make a life. The Northwoods Foundation provides this opportunity to Northwoods employees. This is what makes Northwoods different. It makes me so glad I took a chance six years ago! I can't thank the Foundation enough for giving me the opportunity to grow, to be a better person, to show gratitude. Thank you for the opportunity to really make a life that makes a difference.

Shannon Hoffman_For GoToWebinar Shannon Hoffman is Northwoods’ Sales Operations Manager and outgoing Chairperson of the Northwoods Foundation. Shannon makes a living by supporting all functions essential to sales force productivity, including planning, reporting, sales process optimization, sales training, and sales program implementation. Shannon makes a life by volunteering regularly to helping those in need.