By: Nicole Infante, AmeriCorps VISTA, Volunteer & Community Outreach
The Holiday season tends to be a popular time for individuals and groups to seek out volunteer opportunities so it’s never too early to start looking for ways to volunteer. Many soup kitchens, food pantries, homeless shelters, and other non-profit agencies become booked with volunteers months in advance!
We, Focus: HOPE, always welcome volunteers to support our mission, but unfortunately we find ourselves having to turn away volunteers each year. It’s a “good problem” for us to have. We are fortunate volunteers choose to spend their time and talent at Focus: HOPE, but we still want to help others connect with volunteer opportunities in the metro-Detroit area. After all, we are all a part of the same community and when one agency is able to do good work we all win.
If you’re looking to volunteer at Focus: HOPE over the next few months then I encourage you to contact our Volunteer Department soon! We are currently recruiting volunteers for our annual Senior Holiday Delivery Program which will be on Saturday, December 17th. Each year, volunteers donate non-perishable food items and other gifts then deliver these packages to over 1,400 low-income senior citizens enrolled in our Food Program. This is a great volunteer event for individuals, families and groups. If you would like to donate items and/or volunteer please call 313-494-5520 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We are also looking for short-term and long-term volunteers for other programs, so check out CERVIS
for a complete listing of our opportunities.
If you are unable to volunteer on the 17th, or are looking for other volunteer opportunities, then check out our list of the 9 Ways to Volunteer this Holiday Season.
1. Not sure what kind of volunteering you’d like to do this year? Start by visiting these local and national volunteer databases.
Start the Holiday Volunteering early and sign-up to keep your neighborhood safe during Halloween. Don’t live in Detroit? Search for a similar opportunity on your cities’ official website.
4. Donate Classroom Supplies
Help a teacher start of the New Year right with new classroom supplies. Contact your child’s or local school to see if they accept donations and what items they need most.
Focus: HOPE’s Food Program is in need of volunteers to deliver boxes of food to our homebound senior citizens.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a volunteer calendar with opportunities currently going on until December 17th. Several “Stewardship Workdays” are in Metro-Detroit and on beautiful Belle Isle State Park.
7. Adopt a Grandparent
Spend time at a Senior Care Facility. Play bingo, make arts & crafts, help complete a puzzle or just talk with seniors who may or may not have family to visit with them during the Holiday season.
8. Write a Letter of Thanks
Write a letter to a family member. Write a letter to a neighbor. Write a letter to Troops overseas or Veterans. Write a letter to your favorite non-profit *wink wink.* Write to someone you want to say, “Thank You” to and make them feel appreciated over the Holiday season.
It’s easy! Go to smile.amazon.com
, create an Amazon account (if you don’t already have one), select a non-profit (like Focus: HOPE) and then start shopping! Amazon will automatically donate a portion of your purchase price to your chosen organization.
There are many more ways volunteer this holiday season. However you choose to give back to your community know that we here at Focus: HOPE “thank you” for your commitment to service.
Thank you to everyone who participated, volunteered, ran or attended or annual Eleanor's Walk for HOPE & 5k Run! Because of you, the day was filled with positive energies and conversations about Detroit and we reached our goals! The weather was beautiful, the people were beautiful and the day could not have gone any better as our community united as one to stand together in the fight against racism, poverty and injustice!
"Everyone thinks the only place in Detroit that is safe is downtown, but almost 1,000 people attended this WALK on Focus: HOPE's campus and we did not have one incident of stealing, car being broken into, anything," said a Detroit Police Officer. "This location is another safe zone in Detroit."
The day started off with runners gathering to register for the 5k run. The run began on Oakman Blvd., cut right onto Livernois Ave, went along the John C. Lodge Freeway and then back to Focus: HOPE's campus. The Detroit Police Department escorted the runners for safety the whole way. We had a 1st -3rd place winner for both men and women, and two age groups, 19 and up and 18 and under. Congrats to all of our 5k run winners!
After the run, we had entertainment, free food, kids' activities and more for our guests to enjoy. Andrew Humphrey, Emmy award winning meteorologist and reporter at WDIV-TV Local 4, graciously emceed our entertainment. He first introduced Jammin' Jessica who warmed up our runners with a fun and exciting Zumba lesson.
Khary Frazier, Detroit based rapper and activist, performed next with raps about Detroit, overcoming poverty and making a comeback. Friends of Focus: HOPE played the National Anthem and there was free food, drinks and an ice cream truck.
After the entertainment and National Anthem, our CEO, Jason D Lee, and Chief Development & External Relations Officer, Melinda Conway Callahan, took to the stage to announce our Corporate Challenge Winner. The Corporate Challenge was a contest amongst our sponsors to see who could bring the largest amount of people to our Annual Eleanor's Walk for HOPE & 5k Run!
They challenged each other by making videos explaining why they sponsored the WALK, and calling each other out to see which company was going to bring the largest amount of people to the event to walk united against racism, poverty and injustice!
In the end, Magna took home the winning trophy. They brought the largest amount of people to the WALK and took home the coveted, Corporate Cup. Congrats Magna!
After our Corporate Challenge winner was announced, it was time to get our WALK started. Thank you again to everyone who came and walked with us towards our mission. As someone who has never attended the WALK prior to 2016, I was curious to see what it was like. Walking through the neighborhoods that Focus: HOPE directly impacts is something that everyone should experience. It is one thing to drive through, see pictures, or hear stories about the neighborhoods that Focus: HOPE impacts, but it is another experience walking directly through them. There were children running from their houses to greet us, residents sitting on their porches waving, children passing out water bottles and more. Everyone that we passed was gracious for the work that we, Focus: HOPE, do in their community.
Someone once asked me, does walking through a neighborhood really make a difference? After walking first hand in Eleanor's WALK for HOPE & 5k Run, I am positive the answer is yes. Residents of the community Focus: HOPE impacts were watching as people from all over Southeastern Michigan came together to unite and raise money for an organization that helps them and their community directly. The crowd was diverse in skin colors, religions, political classes and economic backgrounds who all wanted to make a difference in Detroit!
Thank you again to all of our supporters, we wouldn't be able to carry on our mission without you. We hope to see you soon!
Congrats to our HOPE Village Initiative for winning Community Strategy of the Year for Keep it 100! from the Detroit Community Development Awards 2016.
The HOPE Village Initiative goal: by the year 2031, 100% of HOPE Village residents will be educationally well prepared, economically self- sufficient, and living in a safe and supportive environment. Keep it 100! is a neighborhood strategy that aggressively pushes forward the safe and supportive environment piece by ensuring the entire neighborhood is 100% clean, safe and beautiful.
HOPE Village consists of roughly 100 blocks that immediately surrounds our campus. The neighborhood was recently awarded the designation as an Eco-D for its commitment to green, community-driven development, prioritizing robust community engagement and equitable decision making.
To date, Keep it 100 has mobilized hundreds of residents and stakeholders, and thousands of volunteers to clear alleys, board up homes, clean lots, install gardens, paint curbs and trees and plant millions of flower seeds. The Keep It 100! strategy is a core part of HOPE Village Initiative's goal to create a safe and supportive environment – both physical and social, for neighborhood residents.
The most important outcome of Keep It 100! has been its impact on neighborhood residents. Community members have regained their belief in the future – and in their own abilities to combat blight and illegal dumping. By touching every block, and clearing away dumping which had been prevalent for years, the strategy brought hope to each block.
In addition, as a result of Keep It 100!, over 530 cubic yards of overgrown brush and another 500 cubic yards of illegal dumping have been removed and disposed of.
Over a mile of curbs have been cleaned.
Village residents and committed volunteers have also seen to the removal of
over 500 tires.
Millions of Black Eyed Susan seeds have been planted in the now cleared and cleaned green spaces of the neighborhood.
As part of the call to action, city agencies have demolished 156 abandoned homes and two commercial structures, and removed graffiti from dozens of buildings.
71 overgrown berms have been cut and 75 cleaned of trash and debris.
The Keep it 100! strategy was compelling enough that a story about its outcomes was one of the ten most read articles of 2015 in Crain's Detroit Business: http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20150721/NEWS/150729986
Thank you to everyone who was a part of helping make Keep it 100! Such a success. We are so excited about next year. For more information about Keep it 100!, or how to get involved, please call Stephanie Johnson-Cobb at 494-4468.
October is Dropout Prevention month. The month is dedicated to calling attention to the need for dropout prevention efforts nationwide until our nation’s dropout rates reach zero. We are proud to provide effective strategies and programs for students to pave a path towards a brighter future. Through educational programs catered to the student rather than a curriculum, more students can obtain their diploma and gain access to better opportunities. Although we open our doors to any, we focus particular attention on the neighborhood surrounding our 32-acre campus, where the population is 97% African American; 50% or whom live at or below the poverty line; and fewer than 10% have an associate’s degree or higher. We happily provide programs for youth education, youth development, skills enrichment, certificates, higher education and more.
Our youth education programs are Career and Technical Education, where high school students can pursue job training and basic college courses on a part-time basis during their junior and senior years; Digital Connectors, a one-year program for high school students to develop skills ranging from leadership and personal development to software programming and media production; aweSTEM Summer Camp, where middle school students learn science, technology, engineering, mathematics (STEM) topics through exciting, hands-on activities that encourage creativity and experimentation; and DAPCEP Saturdays, for high school juniors and seniors to receive weekend training in automation and design.
In addition to our youth education programs, we have also been driving successful youth development programs for over 15 years through the efforts of our Community Arts department and Generation of Promise. Our Community Arts department has two programs, Focus on the Mission and Excel Photography. Focus on the Mission is an annual diversity and leadership program that incorporates the art of photography and challenges tri-county high school students to address the role of multiculturalism. Our Excel Photography program engages local, middle-school students in an after-school, project-based photography and leadership development curricula coupled with exciting field trips throughout southeastern Michigan. Generation of Promise was founded in 1987, with a mission to build a community of young leaders who celebrate diversity and are dedicated to the elimination of discrimination in metropolitan Detroit. In 2010, sharing a similar mission, and a passion for diversity and inclusion, Generation of Promise and Focus: HOPE formally joined forces, and Generation of Promise became a subsidiary of Focus: HOPE.
In addition to our youth programs, we also provide Workforce Development & Education programs that provide efficient skills training in the city of Detroit; where 12 percent of those ages 25 and above (more than 340,000 people in the Detroit metropolitan area) do not have a high school diploma or GED equivalent; and fewer than 10 percent of all adults who need basic literacy or English-language instructions have access to help. According to a study by the Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW), Detroit's Untapped Talent: Jobs and On-Ramps Needed, "While Detroit lacks a suitable number of private sector jobs, many residents do not have the necessary skill and education levels to qualify for jobs that are available. More than seven in ten (71 percent) Detroiters with Bachelor's degrees are employed, but only 13 percent of Detroiters have Bachelor's degrees. Because middle-skill jobs are generally available only to workers with some advanced training beyond high school, many Detroiters look outside the city for work. More than half (55 percent) of Detroiters without high school diplomas are not attached to the labor force at all in part because they lack access to jobs that fit their skill levels or do not the required skills for open jobs." Coxen, T., Falby, J., La Prad, J., & Sherard-Freeman, N. (2016). DETROIT'S UNTAPPED TALENT: JOBS AND ON-RAMPS NEEDED;CSW WORKFORCE SYSTEM MAPPING REPORT: PART I JANUARY 2016 (Rep. No. 1). New York City, NY: JPMorgan Chase &. Retrieved from https://goo.gl/NK8zYv.
Since 1989, our Fast Track program, which enables individuals to upgrade math, reading, computer and professional skills, has had 5,950 successfully complete its program. After completing Fast Track, we offer numerous education programs and assistance to successfully graduate those individuals with either an associate or bachelor degree. Since 1981, Focus: HOPE has trained more than 12,000 people for careers in high-demand industries, most notably manufacturing and information technologies.
We love being able to provide programs and opportunities for individuals to continue their education and explore personal creativity at any age. We would not be able to do all of this without the support of YOU, our donors, partners, volunteers, employees and sponsors. By donating to Focus: HOPE, you are stopping a dropout in his or her tracks, by providing opportunities for success through education, creative exploration, after-school activities and hands-on training.
Please consider making a donation to Focus: HOPE during Dropout Prevention Month and help us lift up a drop out. #liftupadropout #NationalDropoutPreventionMonth
Click here to donate.
We are excited to announce that we have earned a silver-level status from the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency for our commitment to providing on-campus, veteran-centric services to student veterans. Sixty-five colleges and universities recently also earned bronze-, silver- or gold-level statuses. View the full press release here.
The Veteran-Friendly school-program, created by the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency, recognizes institutions of higher learning for their dedication to student veterans and dependents utilizing their GI Bill and other educational benefits. This is the program’s second year; last year 57 schools were ranked.
“These colleges and universities have proven their dedication to the men and women who have served their country by ensuring they succeed in achieving their educational goals.” Said MVAA Director, James Robert Redford.
Some of the criteria schools were ranked on included having an active student-operated veterans club or association; veteran specific career services or advising; on-campus veteran’s coordinator and awarding credit based on prior military training and experience. Information about the criteria each school met to achieve its ranking is available at MichiganVeterans.com/vetfriendlyschools.
“These rankings make it simple for veterans and their dependents to identify Michigan schools committed to helping them succeed,” Redford said. “Veterans will also know exactly what services are available to them when they walk onto campus.”
The veteran-friendly designation is available to any higher learning eligible to receive veteran education benefits, regardless of size, location or program delivery. Institutions apply annually for a designation, with an application and review process conducted every spring semester.
Are you a veteran or know a veteran? Are you aware of services and programs for veterans? Do you have questions about where to start looking or need to obtain military records? We are excited to be here to help! Contact Angela Winters, Focus: HOPE AmeriCorps Veteran Resource Navigator, at (313) 494-4397 for all questions. AmeriCorps VISTA members are passionate and committed to their mission to bring individuals and communities out of poverty. Members make a year-long, full-time commitment to serve on a specific project at a nonprofit organization or public agency.
Community, diversity, and action
Our 42nd Annual Eleanor's Walk for HOPE and 5K Run is just around the corner on Sunday, October 9. The WALK is an annual event where we, along with the entire Metro Detroit community, join together in memory of our co-founder, Eleanor Josaitis, to raise funds in support of our life-changing programs that seek to end social injustice for all people. In addition to raising funds to support these programs, we host the event to bring together thousands of people of all races, ethnicities, cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds. (The event features something for everyone, including food and entertainment.) Our emcee for the day is Andrew Humphrey, Emmy award winning meteorologist and reporter, WDIV-TV Local 4; and our entertainment will be Khary Frazier, Detroit based rapper and activist along with the Detroit Mercy High School Band.
Yes the WALK sounds like so much fun, and it will be, but why have we hosted the WALK every year for the past 42 years you ask? Eleanor's Walk for HOPE and 5k Run was originally patterned after the civil-rights marches led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The WALK was designed to bring together a diverse group of people to walk united towards one mission; to pledge intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty and injustice. It is important for us to make sure that everyone knows what Focus: HOPE does for social justice internally and externally. Some of our employees have taken it upon themselves to voice how their job impacts social justice in our community on an everyday basis.
"I proudly teach in Detroit and my students go on to be successful!" says Mickie Gaffke, one of our Fast Track Instructors.
Our Fast Track program is specifically designed to bridge the education gap between individuals and higher education. Many of the individuals we serve come from generational poverty and an educational background that has not prepared them for what is expected at universities and even community colleges. When individuals sign up for community college and are ready to better their life, they are set up for failure by their previous school systems. Our Fast Track program is a 9-week work readiness and academic skills enhancement program that equips students with the skill sets, critical behaviors and academic remediation to pursue higher education options and careers, with the confidence and necessary essentials to succeed.
"I recruit volunteers to support a Food Program that feeds 42,000 every month!" says Bill Wenzell, our Manager of Volunteers and Community Outreach.
We have four food centers around Michigan where food is distributed to low-income seniors. These seniors should be enjoying their golden years, but instead, are worrying about if they will have enough food for tomorrow and enough money to pay their medical bills. Home deliveries are made to homebound seniors by volunteers from schools, churches, local business and organizations. We feed 42,000 individuals on a monthly basis! Way to go Bill.
Find out how our other employees impact social justice by following along on our social media pages; Facebook: @Focushope; Twitter: @Focus_HOPE; Instagram: @focushope .
We are looking forward to our 42nd Annual Eleanor's Walk for Hope and 5k Run to show everyone what we do every day that impacts social justice! We encourage anyone and everyone to join us on October 9 as we unite once again to pledge our commitment to social justice for all people regardless of races, socioeconomic backgrounds, religion and education. Everyone deserves opportunities, education and a sense of community and that is what our WALK is all about.
To register for the event, visit: www.focushope.edu/walk
We hope to see you all there!
Grant goes towards Detroit’s first-ever LEED Platinum home rehab, located in the HOPE Village
Focus: HOPE is pleased to announce it has been awarded a grant by the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, in response to the Foundation's Community Development Request for Proposal. The grant will partly fund the transformation of an abandoned two-family flat, "The La Salle House" – from a vacant neighborhood eyesore for many years into the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum rehabilitated home in the City of Detroit.
These grant funds will supplement a generous grant from The Kresge Foundation through its Kresge Innovative Projects – Detroit program, as well as grants from Masco Corporation Foundation and the Detroit Revitalization Fellows at Wayne State University, helping to close the gap between project costs and available funding (additional funding is being sought to fill the remaining gap). Funds already received have allowed the complete development of plans and specifications and identification of a local contractor to begin the transformation of the home. In addition, a complete deconstruction of the fire damaged interior has been completed, and the basement slab has been insulated and repoured.
The La Salle House is located on LaSalle Boulevard in the HOPE Village neighborhood in City Council District 2, in Detroit's Central Woodward area. The goal of this transformation is to take the home completely off of the electric grid, providing a powerful and inspiring message that makes sustainability personal by helping families "bring green home," both literally and figuratively.
The HOPE Village is a microcosm of the city of Detroit, with a population that is 97% African American, with close to 50% of its residents living at or below the poverty line. The goal of the Initiative is that, by the year 2031, 100% of the residents of the area will be economically self-sufficient, educationally well prepared and living in a safe and supportive environment. In addition to this house providing a number of options for energy efficiency and renewable energy approaches to home rehabilitation, it also will help stabilize the neighborhood by reclaiming a home that has been abandoned and subject of fires, illegal dumping and gang activity for years. The former owner (a well-known tax scavenger) had twice purchased the property at the Wayne County auction and allowed it to revert after not paying taxes. Focus: HOPE Revitalization purchased the property at auction in 2012 with the pro bono assistance of Dickinson Wright, who filed suit to quiet title.
The goals of the La Salle house are to demonstrate how to introduce green technologies in similar abandoned structures in Detroit; train local builders in LEED approaches to energy efficiency; inspire homeowners to actively experience affordable strategies to make their homes energy efficient and reduce their carbon footprint; provide a stimulus for local youth and residents to consider pursuing green careers; position HOPE Village at the forefront of actively developing sustainable housing concepts in Detroit and Southeast Michigan; and demonstrate the sustainable elements of home deconstruction versus demolition.
The La Salle House transformation will be one the first projects completed under HOPE Village’s Eco-D designation. HOPE Village was named one of Detroit’s two inaugural Eco-D’s in April of this year. Eco-D is part of the eco-district movement – a nationally known neighborhood designation that demonstrates commitment to green, community-driven development prioritizing robust community engagement and equitable decision making.
Eco-D was founded in 2014 by EcoWorks, Detroit Future City, The Greening of Detroit, Community Development Advocates of Detroit (CDAD), and Vista Vantage Consulting Group, L3C and is part of the global EcoDistricts network working to create a new model for community development in urban areas. Additional core partners have since joined, including: The City of Detroit – Mayor Duggan's Jobs and Economy Team and the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA). Through Eco-D, Detroit is an official Target City-a district-scale neighborhood development program, and a Clinton Global Initiatives Commitment, administered by EcoDistricts and funded by The Kresge Foundation.
“We’re honored to support the work you do every day to help individuals and families obtain affordable housing, create homeownership opportunities and revitalize communities through economic development.” said Tiffany S. Douglas, Market Manager, Michigan, Bank of America.
The first floor of the La Salle House will be used as a community meeting space, available for tours and viewing of the LEED Platinum features through cut-way and interpretive signs. Throughout the exhibit, visitors will be engaged and encouraged to consider how they too can reduce their carbon foot print. The house will demonstrate to homeowners and builders that that small, physical and behavioral modifications in their own homes can make big differences in their environmental impact, make them more sustainable, healthier, safer, and more durable while creating long-term financial savings.
We believe the LaSalle House transformation is a visionary project that will change the face of housing revitalization and radically change the economics of homeownership for Detroiters in the future – in strategic alignment with our HOPE Village Initiative. We are thankful for our current partners in the project and look forward to connecting with new partners to complete Detroit’s first-ever LEED Platinum home.
Blue Chip Talent takes coveted trophy
Thank you to everyone who came out to Belle Isle for our first-ever, kickball tournament, Kick 4 HOPE! We had so much fun and hope that you did too. Even in the rain, teams were bringing their all to the Belle Isle playing fields. We would like to give a special thanks to our presenting sponsor, Van Conway & Partners, and all of our other sponsors involved in making Kick 4 HOPE such a success; Absopure; The Remington Group; Blue Chip Talent; UBS Financial; Atwater Brewery; Team Red, White and Blue; Trader Joes; Rogue Digital; Buffalo Wild Wings; HopCat Detroit and the Detroit Institute of Bagels. We would also like to thank, Justin Jacobs, co-founder of Come Play Detroit, for helping us coordinate kickball teams and managing the playing fields. We could not have hosted the kickball tournament without your support.
The tournament kicked off to a fantastic start as 98.7 AMP Radio’s Rat & Puff announced the Kick 4 HOPE teams, introduced the National Anthem singer and played music throughout the tournament. UBS Financial supplied all of our athletes with a morning essential, coffee, and Detroit Institute of Bagels brought everyone a hearty breakfast for a long, exciting day of kickball. Although we did get rained on, it brought an edge to the playing fields that we wouldn’t have otherwise had that included mud, wet clothes and actual sliding into home base. Thank you for being such great sports and committing to Kick 4 HOPE in rain or shine.
There was a total of 11 teams in the Kick 4 HOPE tournament; I survived I-75; The Remington Group; Blue Chip Talent; Team Harambee; The Outsiders; Bases Aren’t Loaded But We Are; Rough Bellas; Warren Wallabies (General Motor’s Design Team), Sons of Pitches, Better Than Yours and Alex Simpson’s Team. Each team was guaranteed at least two games and after those two games, were entered into the elimination round. Besides watching the kickball tournament, guests and participants were able to enjoy kegs of Dirty Blonde beer supplied by Atwater Brewery, and great conversation about Focus: HOPE, all that we do and other ways to get involved.
About halfway through the elimination round of the tournament, 98.7 AMP Radio’s Jag announced that he would do a celebrity kick and get muddy on the fields for a donation of $100 to Focus: HOPE.
“Anyone who wants to see me make a fool of myself, and get muddy for a great organization, donate $100 and I will personally join in for a round of kickball!” said 98.7 AMP Radio’s Jag.
One by one, teams were eliminated from the tournament leaving the final two teams, The Remington Group and Blue Chip Talent, challenging each other for the coveted, Kick 4 HOPE winning title and trophy. We would like to give a huge congratulations to our first-ever, Kick 4 HOPE winner, Blue Chip Talent. (Who openly admitted to being just as competitive on and off the kickball fields.)
We would also like to thank our own Events & Third Party Manager, Jennifer Presley, and Justin Remington of The Remington Group, for heading our Kick 4 HOPE committee. Their coordination on all fronts made Kick 4 HOPE not only successful, but also fun for everyone involved in the tournament supporting our organization.
“Thank you to everyone who came out for Kick 4 HOPE and is helping pledge intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty and injustice.” Said Jennifer Presley, Events & Third Party Manager, Focus: HOPE. “Tournaments and events that bring people together from different communities, religious backgrounds, race and societal classes is exactly what we are all about.”
Together, we are able to give back to our community through our numerous programs that are focused on higher education and mid-level career opportunities for disadvantaged individuals; early childhood development and two-generational programs for working families; and delivering food to homebound seniors and low-income mothers and children. The purpose of hosting tournaments and events is to make sure that our supporters, you, feel thanked and part of our Focus: HOPE family. Everyone and anyone who donates, volunteers their time, attends our events or simply asks questions and spreads the word about our organization is essential in helping us fight for our mission. Thank you and we hope to see you again soon.
Supports Focus: HOPE programs and drives Detroit forward
We would like to extend a thank you to Flint’s Charles Stewart Mott Foundation for their recent, generous grant of $750,000. The Foundation has long supported Focus: HOPE and this new grant will help fund operations as we transition under a new strategic plan and leadership.
Thanks to many generous donors like the Mott Foundation, we have been able to continue our operations and give hundreds of disadvantaged individuals access to education and opportunities. It is truly an incredible experience to see the transformation of our students after completing our Workforce Development and Education programs; the benefits to seniors and low-income mothers who receive food and basic needs through our Food Program, and the community revitalization made possible by our HOPE Village Initiative.
As we continue to create innovative new programs for the 21st century, the grant from the Mott Foundation will help us realign our workforce development efforts, examine the needs of those we serve and align those needs with our programming. Our top priorities continue to be adapting our Workforce Development and Education programs for 21st century relevancy and sustainability; establishing our HOPE Village Initiative as a national model for urban revitalization and leveraging our Food Program to provide additional services.
“With the Mott Foundation’s support over the last 26 years, we have trained and placed nearly 12,000 talented individuals since our beginning into good jobs, and will continue to seek innovative workforce solutions for the 21st century,” said William F. Jones Jr., CEO, Focus: HOPE.
Over the next fifteen years, we intend to provide an updated suite of opportunities to an additional 12,000, or more, members of a new generation of underserved and marginalized individuals in the metro Detroit area. Our Workforce Development and Manufacturing programs have been in the process of integrating into one, with the intent of fully maximizing the best of what we have to offer. We have also been able to implement a registered Apprenticeship Program, which has provided us the resources and momentum to tackle higher-level, middle skills training, through a five-year, 3 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Labor. The federal program, Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow, allows us to be the designated training partner and provide opportunities to train high demand, lightweight metals technologies. We think it is important that the individuals who come to us looking to make a change have options. In the second quarter of 2015, Oakland School of Nursing relocated to our campus and opened up a new area of programming in healthcare. We also recently partnered with Oakland University Community College to provide an academic bridge to incoming college freshman.
“I went through a character transition at Focus: HOPE,” said Timothy Farris, Focus: HOPE graduate. “You do not just learn computer or financial skills, you learn life skills.”
Another part of our plan, our HOPE Village Initiative, has a goal to transform the area around our campus into a community where 100% of its residents are educationally well-prepared, economically self-sufficient and living in a safe and supportive environment by 2031. Our neighborhood of 5,300 residents is a perfect microcosm of Detroit with all of its attendant challenges and has benefited very little, if at all, from the economic resurgence in downtown and midtown. Our Initiative aims to change that by focusing on multi-generational engagement and impact through our Center for Children; Center for Working Families; Neighborhood Network and Keep it 100!
“Individuals that use our programs, have the opportunity to be a part of what they are receiving,” said Waymond Hayes, Program Director, Early Learning, Focus: HOPE. “It’s not like we are looking down on individuals, we are giving them a hand up, assisting them to better themselves and better their situation.”
The third part of our plan focuses on providing additional services through our Commodity Food Program, which continues its impressive run of supporting nearly 42,000 monthly clients, and its role as the leading national advocate for its expansion. Our Food Program is currently present and active in 47 states around our country. Under our new plan, we hosted 58 healthcare screening events at our food centers and an estimated 8,000 individuals received assistance with their utility bills at our DTE office.
“Focus: HOPE has helped me a great deal,” said Frederick Henry, Food Program recipient. “A lot of the stuff they give me, I give to other people if I do not use and I appreciate it very much.”
Thanks to the C.S. Mott Foundation, we can continue to be steadfast in our commitment to pursuing intelligent and practical action to overcoming racism, poverty and injustice. Since 1971, we have championed the inclusion of women, minorities and disadvantaged in professions and careers where they were historically excluded from, and gave them a pathway to training and higher education opportunities, including receiving their associate and bachelor degrees. Many of our students come to us without a high school diploma. To be able to see the transition in those individuals throughout our programs is life changing. As we look forward to the future, we continue to define the organization’s efforts in terms of relevancy and impact and look forward to a continued partnership that will eventually overcome racism, poverty and injustice.
Continues to pave the path to success for individuals in Detroit
A $15,000 grant from the PNC Foundation will fund our Fast Track, formerly known as Ready, Set, GO!, an essential component to our Workforce Development & Education programs. PNC has been a longtime supporter of our Fast Track program, paving the path to success for incoming students. Fast Track is a full-time, nine-week program designed to help individuals overcome barriers to academic and employment success through work readiness, literacy skills, academic enrichment and related training.
We welcome adults from low-income backgrounds, a majority of which are ethnic minorities, who qualify as low-income to participate in our Workforce Development & Education programs. The population that we serve is almost entirely historically underserved and underrepresented, with close to 50% of its residence living at or below the poverty line, and 75% of children living in single parent homes. Our goal for Fast Track, and our other Workforce Development and Education programs, are designed to pull individuals out of the cycle of poverty and give them the foundation they need to succeed in life and a career.
"It's not just about delivering a class or providing skills," said Rashida Thomas, Workforce Development & Education Director, Focus: HOPE. "It's really about changing the mentality of a population of people who have been left behind."
Our Workforce Development & Education programs are developed as a pipeline of comprehensive educational programs that work with students regardless of education level and give them the foundation they need to succeed. Since 1981, we have trained more than 12,000 men and women with industry relevant skills to fill the needs of companies in metro Detroit, while creating pathways for individuals to pursue stackable credentials, associate degrees and bachelor degrees in engineering and IT.
"I first came to Focus: HOPE and thought it would just be a stepping stone to where I wanted to be," said Frank Howard, Workforce Development & Education graduate, Focus: HOPE. "When I was in the program, I learned that Focus: HOPE is so much more. They teach you things that are invaluable and are now like a family to me."
Thanks to the longtime support of the PNC Foundation, our Fast Track program serves as the prerequisite to our various career training programs. Student's course work in Fast Track stresses academics, time management, teamwork, workplace ethics, conflict resolution and more. Students in the program learn how to take efficient notes, set personal goals, and communicate professionally while having a positive attitude. They also learn how to prepare a resume and participate in mock interviews that set them up for success in the real world.
Students who complete Fast Track will be prepared to take advantage of post-secondary education opportunities and have the pre-requisite needed to apply to our vocational and technical programs. Students are also able to successfully secure entry-level employment in an array of fields, something that they previously struggled with prior to Fast Track.
We are committed to building Detroit's new skilled workforce and providing pathways to long term careers for those who have been marginalized in our community. Our city's continued growth will depend on the quality of its workforce, expansion of supply of middle-skill workers to fill open jobs, attracting new business and providing opportunities for those disadvantaged. This is why we, Focus: HOPE can lead systematic, transformational change and break the cycle of poverty in our community.
"There's no greater way to eliminate racism and poverty that to see that people have education, skills, jobs and opportunities in life," said Eleanor Josaitis, Co-Founder, Focus: HOPE.