You can find Cheryl Hoeft everywhere in Saline. You can find her at countless meetings, community foundations and promoting the annual Saline Craft Show. “She really does everything,” said assistant superintendent of Saline Area Schools Steve Laatsch.
“Her leadership has done a lot for the district,” said Laatsch. “She is involved in so many things you would think she is a full-time staff member because she works as hard as any staff member.”
Laatsch said Hoeft possesses many talents from her ability to create strong connections to her organizational skills. “She got involved in Saline Area Schools Foundation, and she embraced it,” said Laatsch. “Since her involvement she has participated in many creative fundraisers.”
Hoeft is now in her third term as president of the Foundation for Saline Area Schools, a group that raises money for projects and ideas presented by teachers that require funding. Most recently Hoeft has given her time working to raise $75,000 for the Love of Language, a program that aims to add foreign language to elementary level students. Love of Language is just one of about 16 fundraising tasks that Hoeft participates in for the SAS Foundation each year.
Hoeft is no stranger to raising money for the area. In 1987 Hoeft founded the Saline Craft Show, and still serves promoting the event. Hoeft said she started the event because there was a fundraising need for student groups. “We needed to raise money,” said Hoeft. “Our first show was at Liberty School and we started with a crock pot of soup and 66 crafters. “
Today the craft show is in its 26th year, and welcomes over 250 crafters each year. True to its founding mission, the show still supports dozens of student groups in Saline. “Her work with the craft show helps bring in thousands of dollars to the district,” said Laatsch.
Hoeft is also the president of the Saline Area Schools Preservation Foundation. One of their projects is operating a one room schoolhouse that kids from various schools visit for a day and get a taste of what learning was like long ago. “It’s living history,” said Hoeft. “Students dress in period clothing, bring their lunch and learn lessons taught back then.”
Just like other projects, she embraces tasks and gives 100 percent. “She is amazing,” said Laatsch. “She goes out and finds antique furniture to stock the school house, so kids can have the full experience.”
While school activities are a big part of where Hoeft spends her time, her volunteerism does not end there. She also spends her time at church events planning coffee hours and serving on the Parish Staff Commission at her church St. Paul Church of Christ.
She has also served on countless committees from bond issues or building a new school to developing the city on the planning commission.
Hoeft said her role on the Saline Planning commission has been an enlightening process. “You get to see the development of residential and business properties,” she said. “You also get a front row seat witnessing how properties develop, their needs and how it relates to the community.”
Hoeft has witnessed much change in the area since her childhood when she attended a one room school. “The school I attended was located at the corner of Alber and Bethel Church in Lodi Township,” said Hoeft. “I was the only student in my class.”
Saline Schools consolidated in the 1950s, and she rode a school bus to Saline and attended Jensen Elementary, now the home of Pleasant Ridge Elementary, and later graduated from Saline Schools. She returned to her home and taught home economics and math at Saline High School from 1968 to 1994.
Saline was much different back then. “Town was two or three blocks in each direction, and from there it was all farmland,” Hoeft said. She also said she sees a difference in the number of farms in the area. Saline has less farms today, and more housing development,” Hoeft said.
Saline schools have grown too. “There were only 125 people in my graduating class,” she said. Today, there are thousands of students. “We are one of the top districts in the nation.” Hoeft has lent a big hand over the years, helping the district to grow from the community it was when she grew up.
Hoeft spend her youth in Lodi Twp. as did her parents and grandparents. She was taught the ways of sustainability and self-reliance from her family, skills often lost in today’s society. “My parents grew up in the depression, a time when you saved your pennies, a time when we were more self-reliant,” Hoeft said. “It was much different than it is today.”
Hoeft grew up on a centennial farm and learned the ropes of farming from her father. Her dad thought better of her caring for cattle, so she learned to care for chickens from a family friend. During a time when milk was still delivered to doorsteps, her grandmother Lydia sold eggs to community members.
Involved in 4-H club, she learned skills like cooking, canning and sewing. Participating in the 4-H Youth Development Program inspired Hoeft to attend Michigan State University where she earned a degree in home economics and teaching.
Her husband Jim taught school in Chelsea, and like Hoeft, retired in 1994. However, retirement has not slowed her down a bit.
As for why she gives all her time, Hoeft said Saline is a unique community and a great place to live. Laatsch, like many others, would say Saline is a great community because they have a gal like Hoeft who is willing to dedicate so much of their time to helping their community prosper.
"She goes above and beyond the call of duty,” said Laatsch. “We’re lucky to have her.”