Lakeshia Gilbert, Founder and CEO of H.O.A.P., Inc. (Helping Our Adolescents Prosper), Grand Rapids, Michigan, is one of ten leading women to receive a 2022 Nation of Neighbors℠ empowerment award and $10,000 grant.
“H.O.A.P.’s work is creating an amazing ripple effect by empowering women and young females to build their futures and communities, and that is in beautiful alignment with the mission of Royal Neighbors of America,” said Senior Member Engagement Specialist Darcy Smith.
Lakeshia founded H.O.A.P., Inc. in 2013 when she recognized a great need for supporting women in all the areas related to unplanned pregnancies, parenting, and other life difficulties that often lead to homelessness. “My experiences as a teen mom inspired me to start H.O.A.P., Inc,” said Lakeshia. “However, the deeper I got into my spiritual relationship with God, I began to understand my purpose clearly aligns with my work through H.O.A.P.”
H.O.A.P. offers a long-term, transitional home for young moms and their children who are at risk of homelessness and provides a safe, loving, and nurturing environment. The organization seeks to make a long-term impact by empowering women to strive to achieve H.O.A.P.’s four goals: employment, education completion, parenting skills, and preparing for permanent housing.
Last year, H.O.A.P. served 292 youth, adolescents, and young mothers with housing support, transportation, basic essential needs, mentorship, and educational workshops. “Our overarching goal is to remove barriers that hinder the pathway to success and ensure families prosper,” said Lakeshia.
H.O.A.P. will use the Nation of Neighbors grant to purchase a van to provide safe, reliable, non-emergency transportation to young mothers and children. “Reliable and accessible transportation is essential to empower young mothers to break the cycle of poverty,” said Lakeshia. “It greatly increases a mother’s access to employment, health care, childcare, and so much more.”