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A tribute for Ellen

Youngsters take off to find eggs at the start of the Andrews Easter egg hunt on Saturday.
Youngsters take off to find eggs at the start of the Andrews Easter egg hunt on Saturday. Photo by Lori Overmyer

Children dressed in Easter-themed shirts and dresses carrying baskets screamed with delight when they saw the filled plastic eggs outside and in at the Andrews Fire Department Saturday morning. For the children, the morning was about candy and fun, but for Jordan Hofmann, the day was bittersweet.

At the end of March, Hofmann’s mother, Ellen Hackett, died suddenly from a heart attack, but Hofmann, following her mother’s example of a giving heart, was determined to find a way to honor Hackett while also meeting the requirements to pass her capstone course at Purdue Fort Wayne. She was required to host a public event that anyone could attend. Hofmann chose to develop children’s activities for the Andrews Easter Egg Hunt and coordinate it with requesting donations for Blessed Portions Ministry in Fort Wayne.

To understand Hofmann’s goal, it’s necessary to understand the legacy Ellen Hackett leaves. She served as the Deputy Trustee of Andrews and was the founding member of the Andrews Community Helpers. Hacket’s passion was serving her neighbors and others. When a fire hit apartments in Andrews last winter, Hackett posted endlessly on the Andrew’s Facebook page to let community members know what was needed for the families and to provide help.

The days before Hackett’s heart attack were filled with charity. She stuffed the Easter eggs the children found Saturday, and she served meals and provided comfort to the homeless through Blessed Portions in Fort Wayne.

“She always taught me ‘we do for our people, and our people are everyone,’” Hofmann said.

Ferol Labash, Hackett’s sister who lives in Mt. Morris, Ill., attended the Easter Egg Hunt and activities to support Hofmann and to honor her sister.

“Dad was a pastor for 30 plus years. Serving has always been part of our lives,” Labash said.

“After Mom passed, people reached out with stories about how she helped them. Some said she was the ‘Mayor of Andrews’ because she hosted porch meetings to help sort out issues and figure out how to help people,” Hofmann said.

Hofmann grew up in Andrews, so she was in tune with what the Easter Egg Hunt meant to the kids, so she decided to provide pre-hunt activities for the excited children.
“I know they have a lot of energy, so I have a ball toss game, Easter themed coloring sheets, hula hoopsand bottled water for them,” Hofmann said. “I reward them with stickers.”

Growing up, Hofmann hunted for the eggs, later helped the committee stuff them, and was even the Easter Bunny one year.

As she looked around at the excited children, Hofmann said, “The children bring me joy. They don’t know I’m sad.”

Julie Newsome, coordinator for the Easter Egg Hunt, knew the day was about bringing joy and candy to the children.

“This is the first time in two years we’ve been able to host this event, so we’re excited to see the kids have fun,” Newsome said. “The entire event is supported through donations, and we’re expecting to have up to 300 kids.”

At noon on Saturday, Fire Chief Tom Wuensch sounded the whistle. The children raced to gather the eggs, and the sweet tradition continued in Andrews.