Minneapolis (WCO) – For years, Marcel Hofker has dreamed of attending university and playing the sports he loves. The married father and business owner grew up in St. Paul, where hockey provides connection, structure, and community.
“I grew up in the suburbs as a black and white, you know, mixed person, and I immediately discovered I was different,” Hoffcker said. “I went by Mark because Marcel was so different. But hockey is what the people in North St Paul do, which is what the people in North St Paul do. So I played hockey and I loved hockey. It put me on par with everyone else for that hour or two.” “.
Hofker said his passion for hockey continued to grow, and he eventually played for Mahtomidy during his sophomore year in high school. The injury would later turn the dream of college upside down.
“I missed my first year. That’s when I discovered marijuana, the pain reliever, because it gave me a combination of those,” Hofker said of his medical care. “I lost the structure of my sport, all in the locker room. Losing hockey was everything. My goal was college, and that was my only plan. To lose your only plan, you’re just floating. You’re looking for something to fill that hole.”
Hofker spent years battling addiction, both using and selling drugs. Efforts to change course have been accompanied by challenges.
“I had had treatment 9 to 10 times. I became sober and held steady for about three years,” Hofker said. “I made a mistake that I see a lot of people do. I worked three times a week. I exercise 65 hours a week. My recovery community has been put by the wayside. My life became a job and within three years I started to relapse.”
After several trips to prison, he received his first criminal charge against him for first-degree sale in 2013. A judge sentenced Hofker to 58 months in prison, but only served 10 months for a prison training camp program. He said his acceptance into the Challenge Prison program would change his life.
“It helped me think before I spoke. I always just let the cuff off. Getting Tom, ‘Sir, permission to speak, sir’,” said Hofker, and then keep quiet until you’re told you can – or aren’t told you can – that discipline is very strong “. “Immediate accountability for everything you do. One of their big mottos was that if you mess up, pick it up and move on. I don’t dwell on it. I really put that into practice in my life.”
In 2020, Hofker has completed all his parole obligations. Since his release from prison, he has married, expanded his family, restored relations, and bought his first home. He also launched Celo Staffing Services, now known as Strive Staffing.
“When I started, it was me and the notebook, and a lot of the notebooks,” Hofker said. “Since then, this year, we have had six employees. I pay real salaries. Something amazing. I think it is a blessed endeavor. I kept my doors open.”
The types of jobs available through Strive Staffing include stadium cleaners and banquet servers for large events. The company also gets into unionization and manufacturing.
Hofker was able to provide second chances for others.
“I’ve been able to employ nearly 800 people in the past five years,” Hofker said. “Some people go and then come back and I give them another chance. They go and come back. My goal is to be there when they finally get it.”
Eric Demay understands the value of opportunity.
“He gave me the opportunity to work, and just having a chance, is what I am grateful for,” Demay said. “When I was recovering myself, from alcoholism, I met him. I started working with him and kind of went from there.”
Demay now works as Operations Manager at Strive Staffing and recently added a new title, Owner. He said he bought a duplex and shared a message to others to start over.
“Starting over when you get older can be very scary,” Demay said. “I had a house, two cars, and a white picket fence. After losing everything and starting with absolutely nothing – almost homeless – what I have now is possible.”
After more than 20 years playing hockey with his freshman year, Hofker is back in the sport he’s always loved.
“I started playing hockey with a group called Recovery Community Hockey. It’s a whole bunch of guys in recovery, and we go out and play hockey every week. It’s something that was everything, so to finally get it back and enjoy it and have fun there is absolutely amazing,” Hockey said.
When asked about the value of his current path, Hofker uttered these words.
“Drug money is empty. You spend it as fast as you can get it. It’s like you don’t want to,” said Hofker. “Now, I do fulfilling things. The side effect is that I get an income. I am grateful that I did what I do. I am grateful that people even want to work for me. The struggle does not exist without the people working for it.”
Hofker described his vision for the next five years.
“I want to see the fight nationwide. I’d like to see us push for higher union membership. I’d like to see us really come in and give the staff, the temporary assignment, a different look. I think it should rely more on placements with purpose, and overall opportunity.” [It’s] More than just numbers. “I don’t like to put people in places where they will not grow. We deal with a lot of people in recovery, people involved in justice, [people] that changed their lives. Put them in the right place where they can be successful in the position. [In] Five years, we will spread this message.”