Our Employees Honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

By Alison Gala, Focus: HOPE Communications Volunteer 

“There is a need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said during his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in 1964. “Man must evolve for all human conflict, a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

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This mission is one we hold close. The 1967 Detroit Race Riot was one of the most violent urban revolts of the 20th century. Rioters smashed windows and looted stores. Fires spread rapidly and raged out of control, covering 12 square miles. Gunshots echoed through the streets. The violence lasted an estimated five days and nights. Forty-three people were killed. Over 1,000 people were injured and over 7,000 were arrested. The overall property damage totaled about $32 million.

Several important political, economic and social factors triggered the unrest. Key factors included police brutality, lack of affordable housing, segregated schools, wealth disparity and demographic changes. The outlook was bleak.

“Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate,” MLK wrote in his book in 1968. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Father William Cunningham founded Focus: HOPE in 1968 in response to the Detroit Race Riot the year before. Cunningham was a visionary leader and civil rights activist who marched alongside MLK in Selma, Alabama after “Bloody Sunday”. In the beginning, we were a series of volunteer  projects aimed at restoring the Detroit community. Eventually, with assistance from Eleanor Josaitis, Cunningham’s project turned into the multi-million dollar nonprofit that we are today.

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Focus: HOPE founder, Father William Cunningham
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Focus: HOPE, co-founder Eleanor Josaitis preaching to a crowd on civil rights issues

Our logic was simple: to minimize violence, increase opportunities. Since then, we have worked to provide career training, education, advocacy and support to empower individuals to overcome racism, poverty and injustice in a meaningful way.

On MLK Day, 220 of our employees celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by volunteering at organizations like the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, Bottomless Toy Chest, Boys & Girls Club, Forgotten Harvest, Cass Community Social Services, Humble Design, Mariners Inn, St. Vincent DePaul, Detroit Rescue Mission and Arts & Scraps. Together, we provided more than 560 hours of service to the metro Detroit community.

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“It was really special to see all of Focus: HOPE donate their MLK Day to serve others in our community,” said Jennifer Presley, Event & Cause Marketing Manager, Focus: HOPE. “It was an amazing MLK Day and was a reminder as to what MLK Day should really be all about.”

As an organization, we have laid a foundation for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. We have given people the tools they need to rise, and have provided what was so desperately needed all along: hope.

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Thank You! To our Volunteers & Sponsors for Helping Spread Holiday Cheer to 1,400 low-income seniors.

With the holiday season upon us, it is a reminder to us all to practice gratitude. Millions of individuals around the country are not as fortunate to make the holiday season magical for their families. In Detroit specifically, many households struggle with food insecurity and are not able provide a holiday meal on their own.

With the help of over 400 volunteers from all over Southeast Michigan, and our community partners, we were able to deliver holiday food boxes to 1,400, low-income seniors as a way to spread cheer to those who need it most. Our annual Senior Holiday Delivery Event supports senior citizens in four counties — Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and Washtenaw. The special holiday packages included fresh fruits and vegetables, turkey, stuffing, non-perishable items and dessert, as well as gifts for those homes who have young children living in them.

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Focus: HOPE Director of Development, Ashleigh Dunham delivering a holiday food box to Gracie Anderson.

“Focus: HOPE has truly been such a blessing in my life,” said Gracie Anderson, Focus: HOPE Food Program recipient. “Without Focus: HOPE, I wouldn’t have a holiday meal to enjoy with my family. If I ever win the lottery, I’d give back to Focus: HOPE.”

The seniors who were visited on December 17 are current recipients in our food program, and receive monthly, non-perishable supplemental food boxes. We feed 41,300 low-income seniors on a monthly-basis and have delivered over 24 million food boxes since 1971.

holiday41-1-of-1Focus: HOPE Director of Development, Ashleigh Dunham and Focus: HOPE Volunteer, Drew Patrick delivering a holiday food box to a food program recipient.

All of this would not be possible if it was not for our dedicated volunteers and community partners who sponsored our event, volunteered when it was needed and supported Focus: HOPE. Thank you to everyone who came to our Senior Holiday Delivery Event and went out in the crazy weather to ensure that our seniors, who should be enjoying their golden years, are set up with a complete holiday meal to enjoy with their loved ones.

interview1Interview of a Senior Holiday Delivery Volunteer 

interview-2Interview of a Senior Holiday Delivery Volunteer 

A special thanks to our presenting sponsor, DENSO, who is helping to double the impact Focus: HOPE is making this holiday season by matching all online donations made to our organization by December 31, 2016! You can double your donation today by going to: http://6718.thankyou4caring.org/FocusHopeDonations

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“Connecting with our community is important to our company and our people,” said Bill Foy, Senior Vice President of Sales & Marketing, DENSO International America, Inc. “DENSO is committed to building a strong community where our employees, family, friends and neighbors can grow and prosper.”

holiday3-1-of-1Focus: HOPE CEO, Jason D. Lee; DENSO, Program Manager, Community Affairs, Melissa Smith; and Melissa Smith’s daughter at Focus: HOPE’s Senior Holiday Delivery Event

DENSO has been a Focus: HOPE partner since 1999, supporting with monetary donations, the annual Focus: HOPE Walk, food program and workforce development programs. The matching online donations provided by DENSO will support our numerous programs that open opportunities for brighter futures.

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DENSO, Program Manager, Community Affairs, Melissa Smith on why DENSO is sponsoring our Senior Holiday Delivery Event 

“During the holidays, we want to make sure that our seniors are able to enjoy a special meal in their own home,” said Focus: HOPE CEO, Jason D. Lee. “Although the monthly food boxes they receive contain plenty of nutritious items, this annual holiday box provides them with a holiday meal that allows them to celebrate with their loved ones in their own home.”

15493622_10154857237399294_1868293112851901276_oVolunteers from Oakland University’s Hockey Team loading up cars to deliver holiday boxes to low-income seniors.

For the Senior Holiday Delivery Event, volunteers packed and picked up the food boxes between 8-10 a.m. on December 17 at our Food Warehouse. There, they were provided with addresses to deliver the packages to, and other staff and volunteers helped load their vehicles for the deliveries.

interview4Interview of Senior Holiday Delivery volunteers

Monetary donations can be made online by clicking on this link!  and will be matched by DENSO $ for $ through December 31, 2016.

15590795_10154854383989294_2953301134239834265_oThe Motor City Cruisers and Professional Lady Riders, who have been coming out to help seniors in need at Focus: HOPE’s Senior Holiday Delivery Program for 12 years

15540612_10154857236689294_476090690842279317_oUnited Way and GM Volunteers at Focus: HOPE’s Senior Holiday Delivery Program.

For a full gallery of photos from the event, please Click Here!

Thank you again to our volunteers, presenting sponsor DENSO, and our other sponsors and supporters for helping us spread holiday cheer to 1,400, low-income senior citizens throughout 4 counties.

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15493604_10154857237554294_4859464138490324335_oFocus: HOPE employees & volunteers helping out during the Senior Holiday Delivery Program

Wishing you and your families a Happy Holiday and prosperous New Year!