The following article was re-posted with permission from the author. It was originally posted on the Irvington Community Association web site.
by Jimmie St. Arnold – January 2009
Project Hope: Building Futures and Restoring Lives
When Scott Espedal was a kid growing up on the streets of Irvington he knew what it was like to see a future that held little promise. Raised by a single mom, in a home where the month too often outstretched the money, the odds could look insurmountable. That’s why, some 30 years later and now a successful builder, he was moved to reach out to disadvantaged kids and offer what he knows can make the difference—jobs and a chance to complete an education.
Spurred by the gang-related shooting death of a young teen at Irving Park in the spring of 2005, Scott knew something had to change; there had to be a way to show these youngsters that life can take another direction—that choices and opportunities exist. Something had to give them hope, and that’s when Project Hope was born.
Project Hope is a program that works with youth who want a chance at something better for themselves. These are teens and young adults who, without intervening guidance and direction, would likely end up on the streets or in trouble with the law. Most are from single parent homes, some have already been in the juvenile system, all have struggled with traditional education—most importantly—all are committed to changing the direction of their lives.
Project Hope offers that chance for transforming a young life. Together with his wife, Lori, a former nurse, Scott has built a non-profit program that offers guidance and support in finishing a high school education or its equivalent, opens the doors to entering college for those who desire, and most importantly provides the opportunity for jobs; as Scott says “all these kids want to work, that’s what keeps them in the program”. Project Hope provides jobs in a number of ways, through contacts to local businesses, by connecting with youth job placement agencies and directly through employment in the non-profit’s own retail store.
You may have seen the Project Hope store at 223 NE Russell St. where a knight’s suit of armor stands sentry at the door. Step inside and you’ll find a mix of mostly new and some used items ranging from furniture and art to household décor, clothing and accessories. Youngsters in the program help run the store, building and repairing furniture and other items, getting computer skills and learning work skills like punctuality, customer service, teamwork, and what it takes to hold down a job.
Project Hope faces the same challenges as everyone in this current economy, but they offer some solutions as well, bringing to the community quality merchandise at extremely reasonable prices, as well as services and jobs for an underserved sector. Here are some ways you can help: shop the Project Hope store and support it with donations; become a project Hope Volunteer; donate your old car–running or not; make a cash donation; or just stop in to see for yourself what they’re all about. Project Hope 223 Ne Russell St (503) 287-4914.