BRAIN WAVES

Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona Blog

Wendy Hoffman Brings a Bit of Minnesota to National Drunk & Distracted Driving Support Group

The first thing you notice about Wendy Hoffman is that she must be from Minnesota. Her unmistakable accent. Her easy laugh. But especially her concern for others.

Now she is using all three attributes as co-facilitator for the first-ever virtual National Drunk & Distracted Driving support group, presented by the United States Brain Injury Alliance. She is assisting Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona Survivor Advocate and her long-time friend/mentor, Janice Podzimek, in this endeavor.

When Wendy’s not helping people with brain injury, this avid crafter is into knitting and crocheting. But life is all about balance, so she’ll also be found in the great outdoors with her 15-year-old son, enjoying camping and kayaking.

Wendy Hoffman Brings a Bit of Minnesota to National Drunk & Distracted Driving Support Group

The first thing you notice about Wendy Hoffman is that she must be from Minnesota. Her unmistakable accent. Her easy laugh. But especially her concern for others.

Now she is using all three attributes as co-facilitator for the first-ever virtual National Drunk & Distracted Driving support group, presented by the United States Brain Injury Alliance. She is assisting Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona Survivor Advocate and her long-time friend/mentor, Janice Podzimek, in this endeavor.

When Wendy’s not helping people with brain injury, this avid crafter is into knitting and crocheting. But life is all about balance, so she’ll also be found in the great outdoors with her 15-year-old son, enjoying camping and kayaking.

It’s part of the organization’s outreach to those individuals living with a cognitive impairment after surviving an accident caused by drunk or distracted driving. The goal is to help provide them with navigation of systems and resources to thrive during recovery.

Wendy has been with the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance since 2007, where she is the Resource Facilitation Manager. It’s also where she and Janice met. “I think J.T. (Janice) is the best and when she asked me to join her with this group, I jumped at the opportunity,” Wendy says.

The role of co-facilitator for such a group may be new for Wendy, but it fits neatly into an already distinguished career of helping those in distress, especially those with brain injuries.

After graduating with a degree in social work from Concordia College, she interned at a residential treatment home for kids in St. Cloud. Her work continued at Northwood Children’s Services as Senior Counselor, then Day Treatment Program Coordinator.

Although she enjoyed these positions, Wendy wanted to do even more, so she went back to school to learn massage therapy. However, she didn’t embrace the administrative side of owning her own business and headed back to her original career path.

Back in the residential treatment environment, she joined Anna Marie’s Alliance as a Rural Outreach Advocate and Women’s Advocate, going on to become a Community Worker at a Mid-American Baptist Social Service Corporation group home. However, she found her true home in 2007, joining the Minnesota Brain Injury Alliance.

Wendy was their resource facilitator before becoming manager of the program in 2021. The experience opened her eyes to the prevalence of brain injury. “I wish I knew more about brain injury than I did before working here,” she admits. “Years before, I worked with a lot of domestic violence (DV) cases, and never realized how much it affected memory and processing issues. We never even talked about TBI.”

She recalls how young women were forced to leave the shelters, but in retrospect, shouldn’t have. “We thought it was just because they couldn’t follow the rules, when it was actually due to their brain injury,” she shares.

Wendy is excited by the breadth of clients she helps, receiving referrals from case managers, hospitals, and social workers. “Even if we don’t know the answer, we have extensive resources and do our best to find solutions for survivors and their families.”

She continues to expand her horizons by helping survivors of accidents caused by a drunk or distracted driver. “I hope to help people express grief, loss, and anger,” Wendy says.

Janice, who also trained Wendy in Minnesota, is equally enthusiastic about the group. “With one out of every four vehicle accidents caused by texting and driving, it is more important than ever to be aware of programs like this for better recovery,” she says.

She adds that the group is one part of the overall initiative. “We have a vast network of organizations and professionals who share our mutual goals. As a long-time advocate for brain injury survivors and their families, Wendy will add to what we can offer individuals whose lives have changed in an instant.”

When Wendy’s not helping people with brain injury, this avid crafter is into knitting and crocheting. But life is all about balance, so she’ll also be found in the great outdoors with her 15-year-old son, enjoying camping and kayaking.

She has also become a fan of something very Minnesota—kayak polo. “Every Sunday evening in the winter, we head over to a local community center pool, and drop our kayak in,” she admits. “My husband Jack is a pretty good goalie and I love being a part of it. That’s why we keep our kayak rack on the roof of our car all year round.”

Whether on the clock or off, Wendy Hoffman can’t help but be resourceful.

ABOUT BRAIN INJURY ALLIANCE OF ARIZONA

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona (BIAAZ) is the only statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of adults and children with all types of brain injuries through prevention, advocacy, awareness and education. BIAAZ also houses the Arizona Brain Health Resource Center, a collection of educational information and neuro-specific resources for brain injury survivors, caregivers, family members and professionals.

What began in 1983 as a grassroots effort has grown into a strong statewide presence, providing valuable life-long resources and community support for individuals with all types of brain trauma at no charge.

The Brain Injury Alliance of Arizona:

  • Works with Congressional Brain Injury Task Force
  • Houses Arizona Brain Health Resource Center
  • Hosts virtual and in-person support groups for survivors and families
  • Has Statewide Opioid Use Disorder & Cognitive Impairment Response team with peer support, training, and family wraparound services
  • Facilitates Brain Health Advisory Council
  • Manages statewide Help Line: 888-500-9165

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