In remembrance of Cynthia Hoehl

Posted On January 14, 2016 By | 1 Comment on In remembrance of Cynthia Hoehl

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Cynthia Hoehl. We extend our heartfelt sympathies to the entire Hoehl Family. In March 2008, COTS honored Cynthia with our Milestone Hero Award. We share that tribute from Rita Markley again with you today in memory of Cynthia:

The milestone hero we are honoring this evening is Cynthia Hoehl, a well-known philanthropist and longtime supporter of COTS.  Fortunately for us, Cindy is not the kind of donor who requires a lot of cultivation (and stewardship) and encouragement. If anything, she’s provided far more of that to us than the other way around.

From our early days, she has been actively involved with COTS, cheering our success and urging us onward when the obstacles seemed insurmountable.  She’s attended our notoriously unglamorous annual meetings and happily bid up all comers at our much more elegant celebrity auctions. Cindy has walked every COTS Walk since well before 1992; even when she’s down in Naples, Cindy faithfully logs her 3.2 miles for COTS. When we talked a few weeks ago, she assured me she was planning, too. Most people would just take a pass on thinking about the homeless when they’re enjoying the Florida sunshine. But she doesn’t.

That’s why we turned to her when the number of homeless families seeking shelter from COTS began to surge beyond all precedent.  Before the late ’90s, we served five families nightly at our Firehouse Family Shelter (and there was always enough room for those who needed it). For the most part, those families were headed by single mothers who needed help with life skills and budgeting. But in 1998, all of that shifted dramatically.

Cynthia and Robert Hoehl in 2004.

Cynthia and Robert Hoehl in 2004.

We were besieged by two-parent working families who couldn’t make ends meet, a whole new demographic, and we were overwhelmed by the sheer volume of requests for help.  At first we rented a few apartments for overflow space; within months those were full, and we began renting motel rooms.

I talked to Cindy fairly often during this chaotic period.  She was deeply concerned that so many families were in such dire need. She called with ideas about different properties that might be converted, short-term, to shelter; she tried to figure out a way we could use the cottages adjacent to the Trinity campus.

Cindy Hoehl could not bear the idea that any child would be forced to spend the night in an unheated car, a tent, or an abandoned building for lack of a safe warm place.  She just wouldn’t stand for it, not here in Vermont, and certainly not while she was around to prevent it.  Her generosity ensured that no one was turned away during that horrible time when we could barely keep pace with such overwhelming need.

By April of 2000, we had 17 families sheltered in local motels and eight families crammed into the Firehouse Family Shelter that had once sheltered just five. In May of that year, we learned that we had two weeks to move our families out of those motels because graduation weekend was at hand. And every room in Chittenden County was booked, well in advance by legions of proud parents. Our 17 families had 39 children in elementary and middle school, I remember it vividly, and all of them would be abruptly displaced a full month before the end of their academic year.

As some of you may recall, we alerted UVM that the sky was falling on families already crushed by the world, and within 48 hours, that large, sometimes lumbering, institution agreed to turn over Converse Hall to COTS, effective May 19th, the Friday before graduation.  They didn’t dither over liability or risk; they didn’t even charge us rent.  It’s unimaginable something like this could happen anywhere but Vermont.

But if UVM had required a fee, or large cash deposit against damages, there’s no doubt in my mind that Cindy Hoehl would have offered to pick up the tab.

In 2002, she made the lead capital gift for COTS to purchase and renovate 278 Main Street.  That building is now a welcoming space for just over 70 homeless families each year who would otherwise have no place to turn.

We honor Cynthia Hoehl tonight for her adamant refusal to sit passively by while hundreds of vulnerable families were displaced and uprooted by economic forces far beyond their control.  We salute her for the wisdom of her giving, for showing that philanthropy isn’t just writing a check; it’s active engagement in shaping a better world.  Tonight we honor Cindy for believing deeply and passionately that everyone deserves not just a home but a chance; we honor her for walking the walk and for living her faith.  Most of all, we celebrate her countless acts of generosity because they affirm so profoundly the value and dignity of every human life.

Last summer, Cindy made a commitment to create the Hoehl Family Fund at COTS that will help ensure our capacity to meet the increased need. We honor her for standing by COTS and shoring us up for what will undoubtedly be difficult times ahead.

Please join me in cheering Cynthia Hoehl’s many good works.

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One response to “In remembrance of Cynthia Hoehl”

  1. Mary Tewarson says:

    We share our great sadness of our long-time friend, Cindy Hoehl’s,passing. She gave from her heart and her deep loving and sharing faith, whenever she and Bob saw a need. She will be long remembered by all who knew her well as a friend. This is a wonderful tribute to a very dear and loving friend. Also, sincere thoughts and prayers to her family. Really, there are few words to ever express this great loss for everyone.

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