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November 19, 2018 Community Excellence & Nonprofit Awards 2018

For Hoffman Auto Group's Lane, volunteering is a labor of love

Photos | Contributed Hoffman Auto's Susan Lane supports many nonprofit causes across the region. In the main photo she is rappelling down an office tower as part of an "Over the Edge" fundraiser for Komen Connecticut. Lane is also a board member of Special Olympics Connecticut, and has volunteered for Habitat for Humanity.

Corporate Volunteer of the Year — Winner: Susan Lane, Senior Leader of Strategic Partnerships, Hoffman Auto Group

This past September, Susan Lane of Avon volunteered to rappel down the side of Mohegan Sun in an “Over the Edge” fundraiser for Special Olympics Connecticut.

It wasn't the first time she undertook such a feat, and — given her volunteer track record — it probably won't be the last.

Diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, Lane needed to clear her head. She reached out to a climbing guide she knew in Acadia, Maine, climbed a 300-foot slope with him and rappelled down.

“The last thing you're thinking about when you're rappelling down the edge of a cliff is breast cancer,” quipped Lane, who was promoted in September to senior leader of strategic partnerships at East Hartford-based Hoffman Auto Group, where she has worked for six years.

Having always enjoyed volunteering, Lane said, “If I could volunteer all the time I would, because I love to help people.”

Lane's personal volunteer work for the Special Olympics — and several other organizations — goes “above and beyond” expectations, according to Sharon Rozum, Special Olympics' senior director of partnerships and corporate relations.

Lane has volunteered for at least seven other organizations, including Hartford Camp Courant, Hartford Area Habitat for Humanity, the National Kidney Foundation, and of course, Susan G. Koman, the organization dedicated to eradicating breast cancer. Before working at the auto group, she also volunteered for Junior Achievement, the United Way and her church.

Lane's commitment to volunteering did not stem from her bout with cancer. She developed her philanthropic bug, in most cases, through her job. She also helped introduce “Hoffman Cares” days, which reward employees with a paid day off to volunteer at an organization of their choice.

Rozum said Lane not only recruits Hoffman Auto Group employee volunteers to help out at Special Olympics events, but she also volunteers on her own time.

In fact, while many companies involved in community outreach and volunteer recruitment are content to send out a mass internal email to employees, Lane networks.

This past March, Rozum and Lane visited several Hoffman dealerships in Greater Hartford to drum up support for the nonprofit's time trials in the northern part of the state.

Lane not only organizes large groups of Hoffman employees annually for the trials, but on her own, involved Goodwin College faculty and students and Microsoft employees.

Lane's personal commitment to the nonprofit led to a role on Special Olympics' board of directors.

The single mother, who has one daughter and a granddaughter, says she was “hooked” when she witnessed how inclusive Special Olympics programs are.

People business

Both at work and on her own, Lane has found her niche.

About three years ago, I. Bradley Hoffman, co-chairman of Hoffman Auto Group, refused to let Lane leave to take a job in the nonprofit sector. Lane agreed to stay although she told him she had never dreamed she'd find herself in the auto business.

“You're not,” he said he told her. “You're in the people business.”

Overnight, he promoted her to the position of director of public relations and community engagement. Now, in her latest role as senior leader of strategic partnerships, Hoffman said, she will broaden her reach and extend the company's services to help all the nonprofits with which it has connections.

“She does a wonderful job of promoting these organizations through her contacts and social media,” Hoffman said. “I follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn and always kid with her: 'Do you ever sleep?'”

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