advocating for and addressing the real time needs in low to moderate income communities, by offering simple strategies with great impact.
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Our CEO Steven Johnson, MSS, MLP was raised by parents that valued education, diversity, faith, community engagement and social justice. Steven received his bachelor’s degree from Cheyney University of Pennsylvania with Honors and 2 Master’s Degrees from Bryn Mawr College Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research. Steven started his first business at 19 and served over 5000 families in the community with his parents. In 2013, after the passing of his mother Betty Johnson in 2012, HOPE, Inc became an officially registered business. The goal was to ensure that future generations could maximize from the life and sacrifices of 2 people from humble beginnings that gave everything to ensure that HOPE for the community was possible.
HOPE, Inc is the fulfilment of the vision of Steven Johnson, Sr and Betty Johnson who were social change advocates in the City of Philadelphia starting in the 1960’s and extending to their passing in 2015. Steven Johnson, Sr. was born into abject poverty but navigated his circumstances and rough neighborhood, matriculating through the Philadelphia Public School System. Steven, Sr pursued higher education and graduated from the Philadelphia College of Art receiving a bachelor’s and master’s degree in Art Education. Steven Sr. worked as a public-school teacher in the Philadelphia neighborhoods he grew up in and used his classroom as an opportunity, as a 6’7” African-American male, to model positive behavior. Steven Sr also became a child advocate and youth support coordinator, starting his own art therapy programs and developing community mechanisms by which youth could explore innovative avenues to escape their impoverished circumstances.
At the age of 34 Steven Sr, was heading to work and passed out while waiting for the subway and fell on the train tracks. Steven Sr was rescued by others on the platform and rushed to the hospital where he was told he had a tumor in his spine and was given 6 months to live. Steven Sr. went on to 30 years after this diagnosis, while in a wheelchair. He stated the key to his long life was Faith, Hope and Love. Steven Sr. stated he needed something to believe in bigger than himself (Faith), he needed to believe that there was still a positive future for him that he could not see (Hope), and he needed people around him that would unconditionally support him when he was the most vulnerable (Love). His wife Betty Johnson was a perfect candidate for the love he needed.
Betty Johnson was born and sent to directly to foster care. After 18 years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse while in the foster care system, Betty was given a brown paper bag of her belongings, released and give $300. Betty Johnson “couch surfed” from the age of 18 to the age of 30 when she met Steven Sr. Steven Sr. provided Betty with her first independent stable environment. When they married in 1975 Steven, Sr was 28 and Betty was 30, their relationship evolved due to their partnership with youth program development in their community of faith, and willingness to sacrifice everything to ensure the next generation did not have to endure the pains and hardships they experienced.
Steven Johnson, II our CEO, was raised in a home with a father in a wheelchair and a mother that expressed trauma informed mental health outcomes. Both were extreme on the spectrum supports and services needs, as youth and adults, but received very little of either. Through this experience Steven, Sr and Betty and their children began their own grassroots campaigns to advocate for themselves and others like them. Through their wisdom in understanding people, Steven, Sr and Betty concluded that everyone may not receive a faith system or love, but everyone was receptive to HOPE. This is where HOPE became a family business and mission.
In 2015 Steven Sr passed. Steven, Sr. and Steven, II were able to set in place the infrastructure for what HOPE, Inc can actualize today. Steven Sr was able to pass forward years of experience in community engagement, politics, philanthropy, innovation in creation, intergenerational collaborative thinking and program development. HOPE, Inc is not a business it is a mission and a calling. Steven Sr validated every statement with a quote from English literature and a quote from the Bible. His final quotes, before passing, relative to what we were working toward were the words from the Alexander Pope poem, “to ensure hope springs eternal”; then the final words that he provided were from Jesus in John 10:10, “I am come that they might have life and that they might have it more abundantly”. Steven Sr, stated that the poem and the scripture verse encapsulated a hope that was lost over time and embodied the possibility of a better life for those who are poor, marginalized, underrepresented, underserved and disenfranchised. We thank you for partnering with us to move HOPE forward and to continue a legacy of service, leadership, social justice and community engagement.