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Harmonia's Coffee Talk: Randy Hoak, Town of Hamburg Supervisor

Sep 13, 2023
Randall Hoak, Town Supervisor for Hamburg

Coffee Talk with Sarah Cozzemera

Our fifth Coffee Talk session is with Randy Hoak, Town of Hamburg Supervisor.

WHAT: Randy and I sat down at SPOT Coffee Hamburg for a discussion about mental health, vulnerable populations, and connective community building through civic engagement. Supervisor Hoak has worked for over 20 years to better the lives of senior citizens and caregivers. From direct care to public policy, Randy's advocacy demonstrates a life-long commitment to helping build healthy communities for people of all ages. He has worked closely with civic leaders, coached young athletes, raised a family, worked for his family’s business, and advocated for our older citizens.

Previously, Supervisor Hoak served as Commissioner of Senior Services for Erie County from 2012 to 2016. More recently, Randy led the work of AARP NY, one of the nation’s largest non-profit advocacy organizations, in Western and Central New York.

Q: How do you support + promote positive mental health practices in your social circle + community?

A: I started bike riding during the pandemic. I was working from home and needed to get out. It didn’t seem like much at first, but I was getting outside, and seeing people again -- even if it was in their yards or walking. Just giving them a wave was so nice. Like a relief. We were wearing masks but it was human interaction. I started taking pictures of "views from the handlebars" and posting them on social media, people got enthusiastic, and when it was safe to do so we rode together. We organized weekly rides and over the course of the year some genuine friendships developed. It felt good to connect with people through that experience of the pandemic and to be out in nature.

When I got on a bike again during that time, I got to see my community through different eyes. I saw the vitality that walkable (and bikeable) community spaces create. Biking makes you think about the ways that people get around -- especially the people that can't drive. Now I take a bike whenever possible. It's a way to stay connected and it brings together so many of the different facets of my life's work building resources and serving people's needs.

Q: What mental health resources are you aware of in the community?

A: We’re lucky in Hamburg, mental health services are accessible for many residents through local providers. It’s not enough though – our community can do more.

One of the things my administration did was bring in a behavioral health counselor that works closely with the town police department. They train officers on appropriate interventions, respond to calls in cooperation with officers, and they coordinate wrap around services through community-based health organizations. Our department and town are very fortunate to have de-escalation strategies for police involved mental and behavioral health calls.

Q: What do you most want people to know about accessing local mental health care services + supports?

A: There are many resources already available, and we are working to continue building stronger supports throughout the village and town. Recently, the Hamburg Youth Recreation Services Department started bringing techniques of mindfulness + yoga to our programming. It's important for youth to have opportunities to learn different resilience strategies. My experience with the Hamburg School District has been extremely positive. Mr. Adams the Middle School Principal has generated such a culture of kindness working with pre-teens. It's astounding! Our district is also visibly supportive towards LQBTQ+ youth.

We work with local organizations to create safe, walkable, accessible spaces for everyone to use and enjoy. At the end of September, Sparks of Hope is hosting a family friendly bike ride around the village. Most of the local churches host 12 Step programs and other community based support networks -- check their bulletin boards or websites for event calendars.


Go to HARMONIA's Instagram and Facebook pages (@harmoniacollaborativecare) to see our wrap up on this Coffee Talk session!

THANK YOU for joining us + check back in for our next conversation. As always: may your coffee be strong and your knowledge of community support systems even stronger.

Special THANK YOU to Randy Hoak for his time and impactful community service!