H.O.P.E. (HELPING OPERATIONS FOR PEOPLE EMPOWERMENT) – the community outreach offspring of TAB located at the Beechwood campus providing: parenting classes, medical and dental services for the needy, free emergency diapers for babies and adults, a bakery, job training, mentoring, employment counseling for ex-offenders, and family counseling.
The employment forecast for nearly 60-year-old Jon Morris – returning to Detroit after a period of incarceration a few years ago – did not look sunny. Bro. Morris says blocked opportunities, closed doors, and overall rejection based on a prison background dominated the horizon.
“Back when I was trying to find work and was not being given an opportunity, it was tough,” recalls Bro. Morris, now 61. “A lot of times, people don’t want to forgive and forget. I felt that even before I got out of prison, God had renewed my mind…and I intended to keep it that way.”
These days, Bro. Morris has a job, thanks in part to a non-profit organization developed by Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church. He rises early and heads to work as a respected baker’s helper with a two-year-old firm – a Detroit bakery which is a job-training, job-producing outgrowth of the non-profit Tab created about five years ago.
The multi-faceted, Tabernacle-created non-profit helping Bro. Morris and many others is called H.O.P.E…and it is injecting just that into the lives of many Detroiters.
H.O.P.E., which stands for “Helping Operations for People Empowerment,” is headquartered at Tabernacle’s Beechwood campus. The organization provides free diapers and parenting classes for young mothers plus job training, mentoring, and employment counseling for ex-offenders. Through special partnerships, H.O.P.E. offers tutorial assistance for school-aged youth and a wide range of medical and dental services for needy Detroiters.
“H.O.P.E. means a whole lot to me…more than I can say,” says Morris, who was trained by a master baker named Bro. George Perdue. Bro. Perdue helped set up the H.O.P.E. Bakery then moved on to accept a job with a larger Detroit-area establishment. Now, Bro. Perdue’s trainee, Bro. Morris, is partly responsible for training other employees at H.O.P.E. Bakery.
“H.O.P.E. came into existence as a desire to extend the church’s ability to reach out to the community,” explained Tabernacle Pastor Nathan Johnson. “It was established as a 501 (c) (3) providing H.O.P.E. with the opportunity to receive donations and contributions that are tax-deductible. These contributions allow H.O.P.E. to provide outreach services to the community on behalf of Tabernacle.”
A Recipe for Broader Opportunities
H.O.P.E. Bakery is one component of outreach services. Men and women returning from prison can gain jobs and experience which they eventually use as a springboard to other employment. The goal is to help ex-offenders gain skills and a strong work record that will help them as they move on, typically after a year or two. When they do migrate to the broader workforce, that outward movement opens up H.O.P.E. Bakery slots for new employees.
According to Baking Manager, Sis. Cynthia Carter, H.O.P.E. employees do some baking, plus virtually all prep work such as gathering and measuring ingredients for pies, cakes, cookies, and other goods. The work winds up enhancing and utilizing the employees’ math skills, she added, along with teaching general work responsibilities, conflict resolution skills, customer service, and punctuality.
In its relatively brief existence, H.O.P.E. Bakery is starting to gain a reputation for quality products, according to H.O.P.E., Office Manager, Sis. Ramona Lawrence. The 2012 year marked the company’s second year participating in the Lathrup Village Farmer’s Market, which runs from June through October. Customers cultivated through exposure at the Lathrup Village Farmer’s Market helped build a strong word-of-mouth following. Sweet potato pies, cheesecakes, lemon pound cakes, and oatmeal cookies are among the biggest sellers.
“We also have the sweet potato pies in Cliff Bell’s Restaurant, a jazz dining club downtown, and the restaurant reports that our sweet potato pies are the biggest dessert seller,” said Sis. Lawrence, who said Tab members and others who want to place orders for baked goods can call (313) 897-5503. “We get a number of orders from people at the restaurant and at Tabernacle who have had our products and spread the word. We are coming off a really busy holiday season.”
H.O.P.E. Bakery employees are paid salaries from bakery proceeds, but the balance of funds from the bakery is used to support wide-ranging activities of H.O.P.E., Inc. Activities which help ex-offenders transitioning back into the community include a mentoring program, which matches a returning citizen with someone who helps counsel them and cushions what can sometimes be a rocky re-entry.
“The mentors not only help them gain skills and find employment but they also help keep them accountable to the goals they have as they transition back into society,” said Rev. Samuel Spruill, H.O.P.E.’s president and CEO, who also is longtime head of Tabernacle’s Jail and Prison Ministry. “As they get ready to go out on job interviews, we help them with their resumes and interviewing skills plus we provide a dress-for-success closet so they can get a suit or whatever they need to dress properly for the interview process.”
While overcoming a felony record can often be a challenge, ex-offenders who participate in programs such as the one provided by H.O.P.E. usually find open doors of opportunity because of H.O.P.E.’s track record with social service agencies, probation officers, parole officers, and prospective employers.
H.O.P.E. also provides hope and help through a novel combination of parenting classes and free emergency diapers. Adult and teenage mothers can get a supply of emergency diapers once a month for nine months if they are participants in what Sis. Lawrence describes as an excellent parenting program taught by Sis. Amanda Johnson. The multiple-week program covers a wide range of topics including budgeting. Children covered by Medicaid are eligible to receive diapers. Mothers bring in insurance cards for verification, and the diapers are provided by a non-profit organization called the Detroit Diaper Bank.
“We keep track of everyone in the program, and we believe we are really helping the families,” said Sis. Lawrence. “It can be a tough situation when the economy is bad, there aren’t a lot of dollars in the family, and you are running out of diapers – or have run out. We can also sometimes help by giving parents baby wipes, baby food, and baby clothes.”
In addition to the program for adult and teen mothers, H.O.P.E. helps provide incontinence supplies for seniors in need of such products and services, including the Depends brand products. There are no insurance or other qualifications to participate in this program.
Family counseling which H.O.P.E. provides is delivered to individuals and/or families referred by social service agencies or to residents who just stop by Tabernacle seeking help. Classes designed to enhance family communication or on anger management are taught by H.O.P.E. staff. H.O.P.E. officials often write letters to the court verifying that individuals are indeed getting substance abuse treatment or counseling with H.O.P.E., plus perhaps doing court-ordered community service with the organization.
“By providing these services to people who come to us, we believe we often are helping sustain and reunify families,” explained Rev. Spruill. “The individual who may not be pleased with a court’s decision or the state of his family situation learns how to deal with it in a way that does not involve domestic violence or other negative actions.”
H.O.P.E. provides homework and other tutorial help by partnering with the S.A.Y. YES! Program, which meets at the Beechwood complex on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. The program is headed by Sis. Adrienne Watson and focuses on youth aged 9-15 years old.
While some families may be inclined to participate in the S.A.Y. YES! Program on a single, homework assignment basis or for special project help, Rev. Spruill urges families to participate on a regular basis.
“It’s a spiritual component as well as an academic piece,” said Rev. Spruill. “They not only get help with their subjects or strengthen their overall academics, but they also talk about Christ.”
The S.A.Y. YES! Program also provides meals, which is a critical component, according to Sis. Lawrence.
By linking with the Covenant Community Care Clinic, H.O.P.E. promotes health and wellness for groups ranging from youths to seniors. Sometimes, Covenant’s volunteer professionals go to H.O.P.E. headquarters to service residents but most often H.O.P.E. participants head to the Covenant Community Care Clinic to receive services.
“The relationship with Covenant allows us to bring up to 12 people once a month to Covenant facilities where, on that day, medical and dental personnel work exclusively with H.O.P.E. clients,” explained Sis. Lawrence. Rev. Spruill added that the collaboration with Covenant is part of an overall health initiative that also includes occasional community screenings and fitness classes such as Zumba offered on-site at H.O.P.E.’s headquarters.
Rev. Spruill said Tabernacle members need to understand the blessing of H.O.P.E. as a Tabernacle outreach effort. He noted: “H.O.P.E. is very critical, especially given the state of the economy today. A lot of the programs in this region that were doing some of the things that H.O.P.E. can do have closed up because funding has run out. Through our identity as an outgrowth of Tabernacle and through our relationship with both Tab and various service agencies, we have been blessed to meet the needs of the community – some of the needs anyway. If you look at our mission and vision, you’ll see that it comes out of the mission and vision of Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church.”
Developed a few years into the tenure of Pastor Johnson at Tab, the H.O.P.E. non-profit organization gained its 501 (c) (3) status in 2008 through legal help provided by Sis. Nicole Lamb-Hale, a Detroit attorney and Tab member who later headed to Washington, D.C. along with her husband Deacon John Hale, where both now serve as appointees of President Barack Obama. H.O.P.E.’s first annual banquet, held in the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, Jesse Jai McNeil Fellowship Hall featured Sis. Lamb-Hale, an official with the U.S. Dept. of Commerce, as the speaker.
As the non-profit offspring of Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church, the church’s imprint on the organization is indelible. Along with Rev. Spruill as President/CEO, its board of directors includes Chairperson Rev. Manuel Peace, Vice-chairperson Rev. Johnny Harrison, Treasurer Kay Lanier Jones, Secretary Michele Adams Calloway, and member James Ponder.
Rev. Spruill said H.O.P.E. can certainly benefit from tax-deductible contributions and purchases of H.O.P.E. Bakery’s products. The congregation’s support, however, shouldn’t stop there, he adds.
Tab members can help H.O.P.E. fulfill its mission by donating skills and assorted expertise to the non-profit. Among other needs, H.O.P.E. can use grant writers, those with clerical and administrative skills, tutors, journalists, those with baking experience, and other skilled workers. “In fact, anybody who has a desire to get involved is needed,” concluded Rev. Spruill.
Pastor Johnson added: “When we support H.O.P.E., we are supporting ourselves in our outreach efforts here at Tabernacle and enabling ourselves to reach out to the community, whether it’s through volunteerism or financial contributions.”
For more information on how to help the non-profit organization H.O.P.E., call Tabernacle at (313) 898-3325 or H.O.P.E. offices at (313) 897-5503.