Focus: HOPE Founder


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. She became a civil rights activist – and a few years later co-founded Focus: HOPE in the wake of the 1967 violence that erupted in her own city.

Eleanor Josaitis, who passed away in August 2011, was widely regarded as a leader who fought with courage and tenacity to open opportunities to African Americans, women and others.

“I refuse to be intimidated,” she said frequently. She was determined to make a difference in the community and she continued to work every day until she became ill in the fall of 2010.

Josaitis served as CEO for nine years after Father Cunningham’s passing and received numerous national and local awards and 13 honorary doctorates.

She often attributed Focus: HOPE’s success to passion, persistence and partnerships. “I am grateful for the many partners that share our mission and make our work possible,” she said. “They have helped us immeasurably in our mission to overcome racism, poverty and injustice.”

Mrs. Josaitis was a member of Visiting Committee for the University of Michigan; Walsh College’s President’s Advisory Council; Advisory Board for the Arab-American and Chaldean Council; Michigan Council for Labor and Economic Growth; Community Impact Cabinet at United Way; Advisory Board for the Detroit Executive Service Corps; Road to Renaissance; Detroit Economic Club; New Detroit Inc.; HP Devco, Inc.;  Karmanos Cancer Institute ;Detroit Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau; Loyola High School; Covenant House and Crime Stoppers.

Mrs. Josaitis received honorary doctoral degrees from Wayne State University; University of Michigan; University of Notre Dame; Central Michigan University; Lawrence Technological University; University of Detroit Mercy; Madonna University; Sienna Heights University; Olivet College, New York; City Technical College; Michigan State University; Eastern Michigan University and Walsh College.

In 2002, Mrs. Josaitis was named one of the 100 Most Influential Women by Crain’s Detroit Business. She also was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame and into the Heritage Hall of Fame at Cobo Hall. Her other awards included:


  • Marygrove College’s Theresa Maxis Award
  • Assumption University’s Christian Culture Series Gold Medal Award
  • University of Michigan School of Business Administration Leadership Award
  • Arab American Institute Foundation’s Kahlil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Award
  • Detroit NAACP Presidential Award
  • The Detroit News Michiganian of the Year
  • National Council of Negro Women’s Achiever Award
  • Anti-Defamation League’s Women of Achievement Award
  • Ford Employees African-Ancestry Network’s 2002 Heritage Award
  • Goodfellow of the Year, 1998
  • “Distinguished Warrior” by the Detroit Urban League, 1999
  • Women of Conscience Award, The National Council of Women of the United States Inc.,1998
  • Boy Scouts of America’s Good Scout Award; Jeffery W. Barry Award for Educational Excellence and Service from Walsh College
  • Wonder Woman Award by the Women’s Survival Center of Oakland County
  • Wade McCree Award from the Federal Bar Association
  • World Citizen Award from EDS
  • Education award from Society of Automotive Engineers
  • Peacemaker award from Wayne State University’s Center for Peace and Conflict Studies
  • City Year Detroit Lifetime of Idealism Award
  • Woman of the Year by YWCA of Western Wayne County
  • Michigan Chamber of Commerce’s 2005 Award for Distinguished Service and Leadership
  • Grant Thornton Leader and Innovator of the Year, 2006
  • Dr. Charles H. Wright Award for Excellence in Community Activism, 2006
  • 2006 National Caring Award, Caring Institute in Washington D.C.
  • Robert B. Johnson Diversity Award, Detroit Medical Center, 2006

Other Awards

  • Salvation Army, 2006
  • Lifetime Service Award, Gleaners Food Bank, 2007
  • Clara Barton Ambassador Award, American Red Cross, 2007
  • Distinguished Women’s Award, Northwood University, 2007
  • Shining Light Unsung Hero Award, Detroit Free Press and Metropolitan Affairs Coalition, 2007
  • W.E.B. DuBois Community Activist Award, Highland Park and Southwest Detroit Branches of the NAACP, 2007
  • Freedom and Justice Award, Detroit Branch NAACP, 2008
  • Spirit of Detroit Award, Detroit City Council, 2008
  • Diversity Award, Detroit Community Health Connection, 2008
  • Crime Stoppers of Michigan Non-Profit Honoree, 2008
  • Phoenix Award, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, 2008
  • Ambassador of the Year Award, Ambassador Magazine, 2008
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Engineering Society of Detroit, 2009
  • Esteemed Women of Michigan, Gary Burnstein
  • Community Health Clinic, 2010
  • Josephine S. Weiner Award for Community Service, National Council of Jewish Women, Greater Detroit Section, 2010
  • Champion in You Award, Braylon Edwards Foundation, 2011
  • President’s Award, Neighborhood Service Organization, 2011
  • Joe Louis “Brown Bomber” Award, 2011