More on Lisa Martain Hoffer, the outreacher | Bleader

More on Lisa Martain Hoffer, the outreacher

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As editor Mara Shalhoup noted in her intro to our People Issue, a theme emerged in our coverage of the 29 Chicagoans we profiled: "Many of them spent years of their lives, if not adrift, then unsure of their purpose—only to arrive at the place that fit." That's been true over and over again for Lisa Martain Hoffer, who's currently a patient care coordinator at South Suburban HIV/AIDS Regional Clinics. Interviewing her, I learned that her degree was in modern dance. (When I asked her if she still practiced, she told me, "Yeah, yeah, I went to class last Saturday. Almost broke a hip.") And from there?

When I got out of college, I was kind of a bum. I was just sort of plopping down on the couches of my friends. And then I started teaching gymnastics in Northbrook. I was a certified YMCA gymnastics instructor. So I taught for a couple years. Then I got a job at the Evanston Art Museum, which was really cool. I was there at night, for classes, and actually Audrey Niffenegger was teaching there at the time, so I met her way back when.

Then I got a job at a meeting-planning company, as a receptionist, just by happenstance. That’s when I realized I really dug event planning, meeting planning. Because I remembered the old adage—do what you love and the money will come—and I thought, I’m going to be broke, ’cause I like to party. Who knew there was money in it?

Martain Hoffer continued in that line—temping, working as a Kelly Girl, and serving as assistant to the chair of the dance department at Columbia College, where she organized high school events for recruitment purposes:

It was always great to give a tour with parents and a potential student. And the parents are like, 'Uww, what are they going to do with dance? They’re going to be broke, they’re going to be poor.' And I would tell them that studies show that dancers are some of the most disciplined people in the world.

She worked at the Reader beginning in 1997, doing marketing and event planning—I remember that one day she rolled around a cart stocked with beer she had leftover from a party, creating a little office cheer. She left in 2006, she told me, because "My oldest daughter was starting kindergarten, and I decided I wanted to play soccer mom for a while." A friend recruited her for her present position last spring.

I really like the people I work with. They all have a great sense of humor. They all think I’m kind of kooky anyway. . . . But what keeps us up at night is keeping up with the scopes. You know, there are certain benchmarks you have to reach to assure that that you’ll get—or even be in the running to get funded next year. . . . And if you fall behind, you’re in trouble. And in some cases, if you don’t spend all the money, you’re in trouble. Since you got the money and didn’t spend it, 'Oh, I guess you don’t need it.'

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