Cutline: Theresa Hoffman is amazed by the generosity of her friends and co-workers. A Cambridge School teacher who lost everything in the Metro Storage Fire last October, had what she touchingly termed her identity returned. Many families reportedly mourned irreplaceable valuables lost to that fire: everything from heirloom furniture to baby photos. One such person was Theresa Hoffman, a former social worker from South Dakota. She arrived in Texas last spring to live near her daughter. She earned her teachers certificate, began work at the Cambridge School, in Humble ISD, and started looking for an apartment. Then the fire happened. Hoffman confided, [When that fire happened] I felt almost erased as a person. I had moved several times so everything I still had was something sentimental and important to me. I had already had a change of career and a change of environment, so Id lost much of my identity. The only concrete things I had left that I felt identified who I was at my core, was in that storage unit. It wasnt just pots and pans; it was pictures, my favorite Christmas ornaments it was what I considered the condensed version of my life. When that fire happened, I felt erased as a person; I felt there was almost nothing left to who I was. As the months passed, Hoffman still hadnt spoken of the possessions she lost; she only shared her excitement of moving into her new apartment. Regarding co-worker Beata Kowalewskas offer to help move her in, Hoffman shared, I just laughed and I told her I didnt have anything to move because everything I had burned up, but thank you anyway. Kowalewska did not let it end there. This started as someone asking the department I work in to give me something to put in my apartment that had sentimental value, and to write me a little note, said Hoffman. So when I looked around I could feel like I had some things with meaning in my house. That email went to a select group within the Cambridge School and one of the recipients, Assistant Principal Jeannette Sandquist, kept the email going by expanding the circle to other parts of the school. Eventually the email reached a teacher named Gayle G. Sampley. I got an email from my principal that said they just found out that Theresa was moving into an apartment and she had nothing to move. I got it and I said, Oh, my goodness, and I attached it and wrote something to my Delta Kappa Gamma sisters (Mu Pi chapter), said Sampley. Within two or three hours after the emails, donations were already showing up. Days later, the staff at Cambridge and the sisters of Mu Pi combined their resources and surprised Hoffman during an afterschool teachers meeting. Lined along a hall of the school were linens, kitchen supplies, a vacuum and furniture. Set up beside a donated LaZBoy recliner was a decorated box, and inscribed on the lid were the words, Were sorry for all that happened. It hurt us, too, and together we will mend your heart all the way through. With love, your CLC family. Inside that box were cards of encouragement. Hoffman sat down in her chair, opened up her cards and read them. You cant believe what these people put together for me, said Hoffman. Everything you would need in an apartment, but additionally, all kinds of sentimental things with notes. Notes like, This picture was the first picture I bought in my home; I always loved it. And encouraging cards. And cash. And much of it was unattributed, so I dont even know where it came from. The personal touches of sentiment had Hoffman reaching for the box of Kleenex included with her gifts, but what really astonished her was that they would do it for a stranger. These are people I maybe pass in the hall, but they dont know me from Adam. Sampley recalled of Hoffman, She was shocked as she walked into the hallway, slowly passing the tables. And then she turned around and put her hands to her cheeks, and said, You Texans are the most generous and amazing people! Hoffman said, That fire was such a terrible thing: arson, for no good reason, and so many of us not insured. So everythings just a total loss. But these people just erased that. Its all been replaced by the goodness of people. I look around my apartment now and it would be impossible to not feel grateful every minute of every day. Now theres a memory thats attached to everything here, too!

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