Everyone responds to adversity differently. Some crack, buckle, and fall apart. Others use their negative life experiences to change the world for the better.
John Lee Hoich is a testament to living through and defying an adverse life. At 16 years old, John’s mother passed away. With a push lawnmower and determination to not be the worthless child his father always instilled in him, John began his first business. Today, that business is still thriving. Hoich Enterprises maintains both commercial and residential ground, going on more than 40 years.
At the age of 57, John’s father passed away from alcohol addiction. Even though he was gone, John still felt the need to prove that he wasn’t the person his father had labeled him. Westside School Board elected John to the Hall of Fame in 1998 as one of the first students to receive the award. In 2002, Westside Alumni named its alumni house on 90th and Pacific after John and the adversity he overcame. For the past 29 years, he has issued a scholarship to a Westside High School student who also faces and overcomes adversity.
During an ordinary meeting for the Omaha Planning Board, of which John was a member, something extraordinary happened. Past Executive Director Del Bomburger was representing the Stephen Center. They were requesting permission from the board to tear down a building and put up a recovery center neighboring their center for the homeless. John began to cry. A flood of emotions took over as memories from his childhood surfaced. “My tears came from the sad and terrible time in my youth but also seeing great hope for people years to come.” John said.
The building in question to tear down was one that his uncle, George Hoich, built in the 1920s. Formerly known as First and Last Chance bar, this building was the one that his father also spent so many years drinking to the point of intoxication before he would come home to be the physically and mentally abusive man that John remembered.
John approached Del in the hall after the meeting and said, “I have to be involved”. He didn’t know how or to what extent at the time, only that he just needed to help. In 2006 and after a significant monetary contribution, the John L. Hoich Center for Recovery, also known as the HERO Program, was established. What was once known as the First and Last Chance bar now serves as a second chance for those overcoming substance abuse addiction.
The Stephen Center was founded in 1983 by Dick and Sharon McNeil. The Stephen Center’s mission is to partner with the community, families, and individuals to overcome homelessness, addiction, and poverty. Stephen Center’s HERO Program provides substance abuse treatment for low-income and homeless individuals. Services are also provided for those who are dually diagnosed with both substance abuse and mental illness. The HERO Program is a state-licensed, nationally accredited (CARF) facility utilizing evidence based practices and client focused care.
The Stephen Center and HERO Program have been a big part of John’s mission to overcoming adversity. In the dining room (Fran’s Diner) of the Stephen Center where Chef Robert Wilson cooks up meals for an average of 200 people each day, a juke box sits. The same juke box from John’s uncle’s bar.
In John’s book, From the Ground Up he notes the many successes and failures during his first 50 years of life. John has twin sons. “My sons are my biggest pride,” he said. Both are attending UNO for Business and Entrepreneurship. John has sat on the UNO College of Advisory board for the past 15 years. Living by his famous quote “Circulate to percolate” John has made a life of serving others. As a perfect attendance member of the Suburban Rotary for 39 years, John applies their code “Service Above Self” in all that he does.