By Father Lawrence M. Ventline
“My mother just wanted to infect you so you would go on and do that. Just carry on,” Janet Denk told a sell-out crowd of 1,000 supporters Saturday at the Light for HOPE Eleanor M. Josaitis Tribute Dinner at the Detroit Mariott Renaissance Center. Nearly $2.5 million dollars was generated when furniture magnate Art Van Elslander’s challenge really got the energy flowing,” said Focus:HOPE CEO William Jones, Jr. General Motors announced a $2.5-million grant to the fund also, a campaign begun in 2005 that raised $100 million for the service agency.
“Eleanor was a dear friend of mine, and, an example of what can be done with a person’s dedication to a tremendous cause,” said the Art Van Furniture icon after announcing a $1-million donation, and, a pledge to match the evening’s donations up to $1 million.
Until her death seven months ago, for 43 years Eleanor Josaitis was a drum major for justice in Detroit as she co-founded and led the iconic Focus:HOPE with the late Father William Cunningham when civil unrest erupted in riots.
“It’s not enough,” Josaitis would tell others as she inspired countless Detroiters to enlarge the playing field for mothers, infants, jobless and seniors after her husband, Don and five children moved from Taylor to a Seven Mile and Livernois neighborhood.
The event was spearheaded by 19 of Josaitis’ girlfriends, including Beth Chappell, president and CEO of the Detroit Economic Club, Anne Mervenne, Debbie Dingell and First Lady Yvette Bing, among others.
“I know my mom is having a blast right now, with her Scotch sitting on a cloud getting all caught up in that fund raising,” Denk said to a standing ovation.
Earlier, however, some were moved to tears as they stood for Focus:HOPE graduate, Yemi Kinni-Olusanyin: “I came to know Focus:HOPE when I was at the crossroads of my life.”
“Focus:HOPE offered me a path to security and stability by giving me the tools to compete in the real world. . .Mrs. Josaitis was a motivator whose passion and persistence led the charge for correcting the imbalances in the world. You were an angel in our midst. When we were hungry, you fed us. When we were thirsty you gave us something to drink. And when I was in despair, you welcomed me and my family into your world,” Kinni-Olusanyin concluded.
Last Satruday, 35 businesss, schools, organization and churches delivered food, school supplies, and more, to Focus:HOPE. And, this Saturday, it was clear that this drum major’s work will go on. To donate, go to www.focusHOPE.edu, or call (313) 494 5500.