Eleanor Josaitis

By now, everybody knows that Eleanor Josaitis lost her battle with cancer yesterday, and that she, with the late Father Bill Cunningham, was one of the founders of Focus Hope.

Focus Hope is that rarest of social welfare organizations; one  praised by liberals and conservatives alike. It started out as a private food distribution program in the aftermath of the horrendous Detroit riot of nineteen-sixty-seven. They still provide food to tens of thousands. But that’s not primarily what they are about.  Focus Hope takes the poor and uneducated, the unskilled and under skilled, and does its best to give them what they need to support themselves.

They trained hundreds of machinists, and when demand for machinists started to slip, they diversified. These days, their biggest program by far is Focus Hope’s Information Technologies Center, which is on their forty-acre campus of beautifully restored industrial buildings in Northwest Detroit.

Focus Hope has saved thousands of people and given them the ability to lead productive and meaningful lives. Hopefully, the men and women who run it will go on helping many more.

Focus: HOPE

Focus: HOPE’s co-founder Eleanor Josaitis died of cancer Tuesday morning. Focus: HOPE provides vocational training and food assistance. Josaitis and her partner Reverend William Cunningham founded the social services organization in the aftermath of the Detroit riots. Cunningham died in 1997.

Tim Duperron is the chief operating officer at Focus: HOPE who worked with Josaitis for 13 years. He says she had strong ties and loyalty with many people.

Eleanor Josaitis, a community leader who co-founded the social services organization Focus: HOPE in the wake of Detroit's 1967 riots, has died. She was 79.

Her son Mark Josaitis tells The Associated Press that she died Tuesday morning at Angela Hospice in Livonia after being diagnosed last year with cancer.

Mark Josaitis says his mother "really believed in human dignity and helping people develop skills to be proud of."

Eleanor Josaitis and the Rev. William Cunningham founded Focus: HOPE in 1968 following the race riots that widened a rift between Detroit's black and white residents. The group offers job training, as well as food programs for the poor and elderly. Cunningham died in 1997.

Survivors include Josaitis' husband of 55 years, Donald. The couple had five children and several grandchildren.