By Nyesha Stone
After several moves, Project Hope Youth Program has found a home at 2004 N. 33rd St. Located deep in the inner-city, Founder and Director of Project Hope, Rita Lee, said this is where the organization belongs because she’s able to reach more kids in need.
Project Hope is a youth organization that gives children the option of learning and participating in recreational activities rather than being on the streets. Within a few weeks, Project Hope will be serving dinner to kids every day, and Lee hopes to eventually add a food pantry.
“Majority of our kids (Black and brown) are good kids,” she said. “We’re trying to fulfill a need in the community.”
In 2014 Lee and her daughter decided to start the program. However, they had been helping the community long before that. Before the organization, the two women threw block parties in their neighborhood, amongst other things. Then, they decided to look for a building to expand their good deeds.
This is their fourth location in four years because the program just keeps growing, said Lee.
The organization offers children a variety of programs and activities, such as an art program, youth conferences and mentoring programs. It also helps teens apply for jobs, gives free school supplies as needed and more.
Brooks Griffin, a mentor at Project Hope, said Lee opened his eyes to the importance of mentoring. He’s been mentoring for over two years, helping young boys who usually come from group homes.
Griffin said we need to start listening to our kids if we ever want to make a change. He compared the sound of the kids who enter into their building as the “sounds of happiness.”
Project Hope also offers free Monday cooking classes to youth ages 4 to 15. Many inner-city youths don’t have a parent at home, due to a variety of reasons, to cook them a meal, so learning how to cook their own food is essential to their livelihood.
Griffin also stated it’s important we teach them skills to be able to enter the workforce because “how are they going to retire?”
According to Lee, most of the organization’s funding comes from out-of-pocket, fundraising and their monthly partners. Project Hope is currently looking for more volunteers to help teach the art program and someone to run the front desk.
This is an all-year organization that offers multiple free summer camps. During these camps, children are taken on field trips, participate in workshops and nonprofits come in to speak to the kids. Along with basketball and dancing classes, Lee makes it hard for the organization’s children to be bored.
Project Hope’s youth conference will be held Oct. 20 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. at their building. For more information visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Project-Hope-Youth-Program-505993562922414/.