Focus Hope Co-Founder Eleanor Josaitis to be honored

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Eleanor Josaitis co-founder of Focus Hope

Eleanor Josaitis was well-known for what she didn’t do.

She didn’t abandon Detroit after riots destroyed parts of the city. She moved her family from the suburbs into Detroit.

She didn’t focus on building a life for just her family. She opened her heart and her home and built lives for thousands of families, co-founding with Father William Cunningham a little organization that grew into a national human rights organization that fights poverty and prejudice by helping more than 500,000 people through job training, community development and food programs.

Now I am proud to join that organization, Focus: HOPE, and 18 prominent southeast Michigan women with backgrounds ranging from banking to autos, education to health care, business to media, who have come together to not do something:

To not let people forget Eleanor, whose death this past summer left a hole in this city.

o not let Focus: HOPE miss a step in its work to make Detroit better.

She would approve

Next Saturday morning, Focus: HOPE officials will stand with some of those women — including Beth Chappell, president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Club; Anne Mervenne, president of Mervenne & Co., and Charter One Michigan Bank President Sandra Pierce — to announce one of the largest grassroots projects Detroit may ever see. They will launch the Eleanor Josaitis Light for HOPE Community Service Initiative and the $10-million Eleanor M. Josaitis Fund for Focus: HOPE.

On the day that would have been Josaitis’ 80th birthday, this group will urge residents and organizations and churches and schools and businesses to collect nonperishable food, new and gently used books and new art supplies throughout January and February. Then Focus: HOPE will deliver the items to children. I can see Eleanor smiling at the thought.

“Eleanor and her life define the tribute theme ‘Light for Hope.’ She was a light for everyone she touched,” said Chappell, a friend. “To me, she was a lioness — the head of the pride. Her work must live on. And it is up to all of us to make that happen.”

The Light for Hope campaign will collect food and art supplies to nourish families and dreams while also collecting money, dollar by dollar, major donation by major donation, to raise the $10 million for the Josaitis Fund.

“Eleanor was all about grassroots campaigns,” said Focus: HOPE CEO William F. Jones Jr. “It was part of her legacy. There is no better way to celebrate it than through this type of effort that was so near to her heart.”

‘Everybody can help’

Focus: HOPE will accept all goods at its Oakman Boulevard campus on March 3. From now until then, organizers hope the campaign will go viral — street viral, that is — and spread by word of mouth and word of hope across metro Detroit.

One week later, on March 10, the community initiative will end with a special ceremony, the Light for HOPE Eleanor M. Josaitis Tribute, a special fund-raising dinner to celebrate the late activist’s 44-year record of community service.

Mark your calendars. Start your engines. When the roll is called on this community initiative, you don’t want to be left off.

“Everybody can help,” Chappell said, sounding for all the world like Eleanor Josaitis.

To sign up for the Eleanor Josaitis Community Service Initiative or give to the Eleanor M. Josaitis Fund for Focus: HOPE, go to .

Contact Rochelle Riley: rriley99@freepress .com

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