Fran Hoffmann is a beloved longtime volunteer at Hill Center. She is a retired sociology professor who began volunteering at Hill Center soon after moving to Capitol Hill. Whether she’s expertly directing crowds at Galleries Receptions, or answering phones in our Reception office, Fran is always a warm, friendly presence at Hill Center.
While our building is closed, we wanted to catch up with Fran about what drew her to Hill Center, finding community on Capitol Hill and her online streaming suggestions!
How would you describe yourself in 5 words (or phrases)?
That’s a hard one! Friendly, curious, travel-loving, student of the human condition, person who draws strength from friends and family.
Why did you decide to volunteer at Hill Center?
I liked its embeddedness in the community and its ambitious programming reach – though it has a very local, welcoming, neighborhood-y feeling about it, its programs are diverse, sophisticated, intellectually challenging, thoughtful, inspiring. The quality of the arts, music, film, politics, history programming is excellent – such a luxury to be able to walk to this intimate venue, often for free, engage with the extremely talented presenters and see my neighbors at the same time!
Truth to tell, I first volunteered to be sure to have access to Bill Press’ Talk of the Hill and [Mark] Segraves & [Tom] Sherwood’s All Politics is Local series, which are often sold out. But other reasons motivated me as well. I am a sociologist by training, retired from a career in academia, and moved to D.C. without knowing anyone in my neighborhood – Hill Center was a friendly and welcoming place to come to learn a lot about Capitol Hill history and culture, to meet people and to feel connected to my new home. I’ve valued the flexibility provided volunteers, the diversity of tasks we are assigned, and the opportunity help this landmark of the community thrive.
Why do you continue to volunteer at Hill Center?
I like the people who work there, their dedication to the mission and support for one another – the workplace vibe is a good one! I like the age range of the participants, from the Tippi Toe toddlers to the exuberant school break campers to the oh-so-cool high school students to the foodies, artists and their fans, movie-lovers, political debaters, music appreciators – there is literally something and somebody for everyone there.
What is on your movie list this month?
Thank goodness for streaming! I am drawn to movies focusing on social activism or worker rights issues, especially in this moment of economic upheaval. Three noteworthy ones this month are:
- “Crip Camp” (Netflix), a documentary about the incredible courage and summer camp origins of activists who propelled the Americans with Disabilities Act to passage;
- “Care: Careworkers, their Clients and the Coming Crisis” (Kanopy) about the working conditions and commitment of dedicated homecare workers in invisible and underappreciated jobs;
- and “Sorry We Missed You” (streaming through AFI Theater), Ken Loach’s devastating take on gig economy delivery workers.
I mentioned my appreciation for Hill Center’s workplace culture – participatory, family (and dog!) friendly, mutually supportive, collaborative, creative. These movies remind us how few workers enjoy these environments – and call us to turn this moment of crisis into opportunities for major rethinking of our labor practices and protections. I’m thinking a Hill Center discussion series on this topic would be a good addition to its agenda!