Meet one of our dedicated volunteers!
A retired teacher meets her match at chess!
When Ellie Brockman, a retired teacher, learned of a volunteer opportunity at Hammer for someone who enjoyed the challenge of chess, she tells us she was delighted.
Before retiring from Minneapolis Public Schools, Ellie taught gifted children, coached Future Problem-Solving teams, coached chess, and rewrote the Minnesota grade five science curriculum, focusing on a study of the Mississippi River, among other things.
“I want to do my part in making the world a better place, and I love playing chess,” Ellie says. “This opportunity offered both. Additionally, there was a third component that intrigued me—I would play a small part in an exceptional organization.” Ellie was paired with Bob, at Hammer’s Cedarwood home, and visits with him twice a week. “I knew this would be a challenging experience when I met Bob, as I found him to be a formidable opponent,” she says. “Now, as I play chess with Bob, all around me is the activity of the house. The other residents have come to know me. They tease and joke, trying to guess if Bob will beat me on any given day. Gabe watches us play. He likes to laugh and make goofy comments. Mikey engages me in conversation about who I know. Charley smiles like an angel. We debate different things, but agree that pizza rules! When I say ‘goodbye’ at the end of the day, a loud chorus of the guys calling out ‘goodbye!’ warms my heart. I go home with a smile on my face.”
What keeps Ellie engaged with her volunteer work? “It’s the relationships I have with Bob, the staff, and other residents,” she says. “The people who work at Cedarwood are impressive, caring and, well, they are also comedians. There is so much laughter and fun as they go about their demanding day. They are an inspiration to me. Above all, what I appreciate about volunteering at Hammer is being on a team with remarkable people and making a small difference in someone’s life. On the days I volunteer at Cedarwood, I clearly feel that I have done something meaningful.”
Ellie has accrued 128 hours since she began volunteering in May 2021. She has also started volunteering as a grant writer with Hammer’s Development team.