Approximately 50 years ago on Sept. 24, 1971, Ardi Hoins walked up the steps of the First National Bank building that housed Blue Valley Community Action in Fairbury and wondered what she was getting herself into.
Newly hired to BVCA that opened its doors just five years before, Ardi was fresh out of college and looking for a job. Blue Valley needed someone for emergency food and nutrition outreach. At that time, the Thayer County office was in Deshler.
“It was more human service than nutrition,” Ardi, who lives in Davenport, said. She was an outreach worker in Thayer County for several years, then was promoted to supervisor and served in Fillmore County for two years.
She was honored for 50 years of dedication at BVCA’s Annual Wellness Day last month. Ardi made sure she acknowledged and thanked everyone in the Blue Valley family and reminded them they are important.
A video that featured former CEO Richard Nation and current CEO Shari Wurtz-Miller as well as others, described her as a “strong influence, compassionate, mentor and motherly with a contagious laugh.”
“She looked at it as more than just a job. She sort of saw it as a calling,” Nation said.
That’s exactly how Ardi sees it.
“This work is like a calling to me. It was what my heart felt and a lot of work,” she said.
“I have to tell you, every few years the job changed. I had the opportunity to start many, many new programs. I love developing new programs,” she said.
One of those programs was the Women, Infant and Children’s program that came from an agency in Grand Island. The agency told the state they were no longer going to run the program, and the state contacted BVCA because it was in their service area.
At the time, Ardi told the state she thought BVCA would take the program over.
“Within a month, we were running it. I had no idea how to run it,” she said. “Nutrition is vitally important for families to function and prosper. We couldn’t let it go by. It had to continue,” she said.
It was the same with the one-on-one Foster Grandparent program. Blue Valley was asked if they were interested.
“Absolutely,” Ardi said because the program benefits older adults who are low income. They receive a stipend that doesn’t count as income.
“It provides motivation for older adults to get up and get out of the house,” Ardi said.
It also helps children, who are read to and play with their foster grandparents.
“It’s so important to keep the program in the area. It fits into our mission. They’re helping little people grow,” Ardi explained.
She also oversaw the Commodity Supplemental Food Program with the first clinic held in Stromsberg, and was summoned by Omaha on the BVCA Veteran’s program.
“They were pleased with our program and asked if we would pick it up in Omaha,” Ardi said. Four staff members were sent to Omaha to help veterans who are homeless or having difficulties keeping their homes.
She never felt like she had the same job, and adjusted every few years to the shifting responsibilities, which included heading up the fiscal department as interim director.
“I stepped in where I was needed when I was needed,” Ardi said.
But she didn’t do it alone.
“BVCA is an amazing agency to work for. There are incredible people who work day after day providing services for people who are struggling,” Ardi said. “I was a part of that.”
Perhaps she had something to do with the success that surrounds her at BVCA. Ardi’s hires were challenged to do more and expand their talents.
She “planted seeds” in her employees and told them when they needed to be challenged.
“We look at the potential and we plant seeds, water them, fertilize them and hope they grow and blossom. I don’t know if I did that with everyone. You hire people with what they have in their heart and their character because you cannot teach that,” she said.
In March of 2018, Ardi semi-retired and switched to part time at BVCA. She works on financial reports and consulting in the areas she helped develop.
She gives her family credit for her 50 years of service.
“I was gone almost 10 hours a day. A lot of times, they carried on without me,” she said about Jerre, Jeffrey and Justin. She has three juniors for grandchildren, Hallie, Zach and Cameron, and a younger granddaughter, Emma, who is in the sixth grade.
Over the years, Wurtz-Miller didn’t miss Ardi’s love for her family, or for the people she wanted to help.
“She’s very compassionate. She really wants to touch as many lives as possible and you can see that through the different programs she developed and the funding she brought in,” Wurtz-Miller said on the video, which may be viewed online: “Ardi Hoins: 50 Years at BVCA.”