Founded in 1968, by Father Williams Cunningham and Eleanor Josaitis, Focus: HOPE addresses the problems of hunger, economic disparity, inadequate education and racial divisiveness through its three primary programs.
Our Food Program distributes monthly food packages to 45,000 low income seniors to help them meet basic needs. Our Workforce Development & Education programs train individuals for work readiness and job placement success. The HOPE Village Initiative is breaking the cycle of generational poverty impacting the community around Focus: HOPE by: providing quality education for children and families, creating economic opportunities for community members and transforming the environment.
Recognizing the dignity and beauty of every person, we pledge intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty, and injustice. And to build a metropolitan community where all people may live in freedom, harmony, trust and affection.
Black and white, yellow, brown and red from Detroit and its suburbs of every economic status, national origin and religious persuasion we join in this covenant. Adopted March 8, 1968
Your gift to Focus:HOPE will make a difference.
We work together and in partnership with others to achieve shared goals related to our mission.
We are committed to embracing the diversity of people, beliefs, and ideas that make up a fair and just society.
We seek to inspire people and communities to acquire the knowledge, tools and resources they need to achieve their full individual and collective potential.
We are accountable to our community, supporters and each other to expect and deliver excellent results.
We are driven by our unwavering belief that intelligent and practical action WILL overcome racism, poverty and injustice.
We hold ourselves to the highest standards of honesty, fairness and transparency.
We value our colleagues and supporters as our most important assets and the key to our success and sustainability.
Focus: HOPE address the problems of hunger, economic disparity, inadequate education and racial divisiveness through its three primary programs.
Our Food Program provides 41,000 low-income seniors with monthly food packages to assist with independence, healthy living and addressing basic needs. Our program also provides important infrastructure for health screenings, income support, tax preparation and utilities assistance for seniors and the community at large.
Founded after the Detroit riots by Father William Cunningham & Eleanor Josaitis
Detroit was still smoldering from the 1967 riots when a small band of people, led by Father William T. Cunningham and Eleanor M. Josaitis, pledged to unite a community that was sharply divided on racial and economic lines. They wrote a mission statement that pledged “intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty and injustice”.
As a young priest, Father William T. Cunningham marched with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and preached eloquently against “the malignancy of racism.” By the time his life drew to an end, he had left an indelible mark on the community.
The turning point in Eleanor Josaitis’ life came in 1963 as she watched a televised report on the violence inflicted on civil rights marchers in Selma, Alabama. The horrific scene ignited Josaitis’ passion for justice.
Detroit was still smoldering from the 1967 riots when a small band of people, led by Father William T. Cunningham and Eleanor M. Josaitis, pledged to unite a community that was sharply divided on racial and economic lines. The founders’ first action was to organize Focus Summer HOPE, a riverfront festival that brought together city and suburban residents in a spirit of friendship and harmony.
It was such a success that the co-founders embarked on other social advocacy initiatives. They trained a group of priests to preach on civil rights issues by exposing them to the rhetoric of extremist groups. Next, they collaborated with Wayne State University on a study that demonstrated that city residents were paying significantly more for food and prescriptions than suburban residents. The HOPE ’68 study exposed some of the conditions believed to be behind much of the violence of 1967 and laid the foundation for Focus: HOPE’s entire approach to resolving the effects of discrimination.
As Focus: HOPE was working to bridge the racial divide, a major Detroit employer announced its move to the suburbs. Focus: HOPE took the employer, AAA of Michigan, into Federal District Court and proved the move was racially motivated. As a result, hiring practices were changed to open opportunities for women and people of color.
In 1971, after gathering scientific evidence of the effects of hunger and malnutrition on the early development of infants, Focus: HOPE’s co-founders won approval for Focus: HOPE’s participation in the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). It provided food for pregnant and post-partum mothers, infants and children up to age six. At age six, children who were still in need qualified for the school lunch program. After winning support for mothers and children, the co-founders tackled the issue of hunger among senior citizens – successfully extending the federal CSFP program to include low income seniors in 1982. The program now assists 41,000 people each month through Focus: HOPE’s four food centers and more than 600,000 people nationally in 48 states, the District of Columbia, and 2 Indian Tribal Organizations.
As Focus: HOPE gained traction, its leaders sought additional intelligent and practical solutions to racism and poverty. The food program was now providing much needed assistance to young families, but the co-founders dreamt of eliminating the need for such programs. Only when people have jobs can they provide for their families – and access to jobs requires education.
Thus, they started a job training program. In 1981, the Machinist Training Institute (MTI) opened, using curriculum developed in concert with local machine shop owners. The first MTI graduates, primarily African American men and women, were snapped up by local machine shops and automotive companies, breaking the race and gender barriers in the machinist trades.
As an extension of the training programs, Focus: HOPE launched a manufacturing operation in 1982, becoming a Tier I automotive supplier and, in later years, achieving ISO quality certifications.
To assist students, many of whom were parents of young children, the organization opened the Center for Children (CFC) in 1987. Since then, the CFC has provided early childhood education and care to more than 7,000 infants and children.
With an increasing number of senior citizens depending upon the food program a new problem arose: How to get food to homebound seniors. Thousands of volunteers stepped up to the challenge to pack and deliver boxes of food each month.
Excitement and innovation marked the beginning of Focus: HOPE’s third decade. Education opportunities grew with two new programs to help incoming students upgrade math and reading skills. Called First Step and Fast Track, the programs helped incoming students improve reading and math by as much as two grade levels.
In 1993, an innovative college degree program was launched in the new Center for Advanced Technologies (CAT). Envisioned by Father Cunningham as a unique opportunity for students from the inner city, the CAT opened with support from the National Science Foundation and the Greenfield Coalition.
Retired General Motors President Lloyd Reuss volunteered to lead the innovative program, which gave MTI graduates the opportunity to earn a tuition-free college degree in manufacturing engineering. As this hands-on program gained national attention, prominent business and government leaders took note. Even President Bill Clinton came to Focus: HOPE to see the program in action.
Attention also turned toward engaging elementary and high school students in arts-related programming to build understanding of different cultures. The Pen Pal program paired third graders from city and suburban schools in a letter writing and cultural diversity program. Children met periodically at Focus: HOPE for diverse entertainment and arts activities.
Budding high school journalists also participated in an annual journalism competition. The students conducted interviews and wrote stories in a one-day competition judged by professional journalists. But the decade that began with such promise ended in heartbreak. Father Cunningham passed away on May 26, 1997 after a year-long battle with cancer. Just two months later, while his colleagues and the community were still in mourning, a tornado inflicted $18 million in damages to buildings. Miraculously, no one was injured.
Within a day, Focus: HOPE colleagues were working out of temporary locations and reconstruction was underway with tremendous support from individuals and the business community. The stage was set for revitalization under co-founder Eleanor Josaitis.
With new leadership in place, Focus: HOPE launched a new education program that capitalized on expanding career opportunities in the information technology field. The Information Technologies Center (ITC) opened in 1999 and has placed students into careers as computer technicians and network administrators. Building on that success, ITC collaborated with Wayne State University to launch an Information Management and Systems Engineering degree program in 2007 that combines technology and business coursework.
With the start of the 21st Century, Focus: HOPE made neighborhood revitalization a priority. In collaboration with other organizations, in the first decade of the century, Focus: HOPE helped establish the Village of Oakman Manor, a 55-unit apartment building for very low income senior citizens and an adjacent park.
In 2011, the organization launched a long term comprehensive community change initiative called The HOPE Village Initiative with a goal that 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. HOPE Village includes the 107 blocks immediately surrounding Focus: HOPE’s campus, with more than 1,700 housing units and 5,300 residents.
With a rich history and renewed energy, Focus: HOPE will continue to impact the community through using intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty and injustice. In August of 2016, Focus: HOPE welcomed their newest CEO, Jason D. Lee.
Board of Directors
Chief Executive Officer and President
Lizabeth Ardisana, Vice Chair
Chief Executive Officer
Vernice Davis Anthony, BSN, MPH
Chief Executive Officer Emerita
Mayor Dave Bing
Bing Youth Institute, Inc.
Daniel G. Brudzynski
Vice President, Gas Sales & Supply
John A. Dunn
President and CEO, The Americas
Plastic Omnium–Auto Inergy Division
Carlton M. Faison
Senior Vice President,
Global Commercial Banking
Bank of America Merrill Lynch
CEO and Founder
Fikany & Associates
Vice President of Business Operations
Regional Manager for Wealth Management
Chemical Bank Wealth Management
Rainy Hamilton, Jr.
Hamilton Anderson Associates, Inc.
Laurie A. Harbour
President and CEO
Harbour Results, Inc.
Deloitte & Touche LLP
Vice President, Global Vehicle and
Powertrain Purchasing & Supplier Diversity
Ford Motor Company
Eric S. Mitchell
West Village Garden
Glenda D. Price, Ph.D.
Field Support Engineer
Hon. Gerald E. Rosen
U.S. District Judge, Retired
D. Scott Sandefur
Vice President, GMNA Labor Relations
Robert L. Watson
Assistant Treasurer and Chief Investment Officer
FCA US LLC
James J. Tobin
Chief Marketing Officer
President, Magna Asia
Magna International, Inc.
General Motors Corporation
President and CEO
Blue Nectar Spirits Company
Lois Pincus Cohn
W. Frank Fountain
President & CEO
Escambia Enterprises, LLC
Senior Vice President
Sales and Marketing Division
DENSO International America, Inc.
Global Supply Management Operations
Global Vehicle and Powertrain Purchasing
& Supplier Diversity
Ford Motor Company
Hon. Damon J. Keith
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
Global Purchasing and Supply Chain
General Motors Company
David E. Meador
Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
Vice President and Chief Information Officer
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Chief Operating Officer
Plastic Omnium, Inergy Automotive Systems Division
Hon. Lucile A. Watts
Wayne County Circuit Court