HOPE is a non-profit organization geared toward youth ages 11-19, and any youth is welcome. The group is diverse, and any race, income or religion is taken in with open arms and hearts. The organization’s goal is to teach important life skills to its youth members by educating them on banking, real estate, taxes, and budgeting among other things.
“We don’t want them to live beyond their means” says Stella Robinette, HOPE’s founder. “We want these youth to become self-sufficient adults and not acquire debt. We want them to be able to afford what they need and provide for themselves by not living paycheck to paycheck and becoming bankrupt and homeless.”
HOPE stands for “Help Our Potential Evolve,” and that is exactly what Stella and other supporters of HOPE intend to do for the youth of the community and beyond.
In addition to their goal of educating youth on life skills, every Wednesday during the month of February, HOPE is offering a Black History Month class from 4 to 6 p.m. Those who have been a part of the classes so far are excited about what they are learning, Stella said. “We watched a series on the Underground Railroad, and they went home and wanted to watch more. This is about everyone’s history and who did what. There may have been bad, but there is always good somewhere.” Anyone can drop in on the final two Wednesdays and hear what is being taught by class leader Linda Bly. Simply contact Stella for information or directions.
One important lesson HOPE wants to teach its youth is how to be there for others.
“Once you join, you become family. We are close and it feels comfortable. They learn from each other and are very protective of each other,” Stella explained.
This sense of unity will soon spill out into other communities. Supporters of HOPE are hosting a fundraiser to help members take their skills and love for others to the Bahamas where they’ll work to help people affected by the horrible storms that ripped through their communities.
“This spring break, we will be helping those that have been displaced and in need of supplies,” Stella said. “We are going to assist however we can.” The ship carrying the members of HOPE will be stopping in Nassau before heading to the next island over to offer assistance. While there changing the lives of others, the youth of HOPE will be changing their own lives as well. They will gain experience on the ship with dress and dinner etiquette, learn about the culture and countries of staff members, and explore the stories of those on the islands.
“The first day will be missions only. The next day, they will have the opportunity to have some fun at Princess Cay. Knowing they will have the chance for some fun will make them work that much harder,” Stella said. “We want them to experience a little bit of everything in life and not blindly go into it without knowing. They will be able to say they saw places and talk about it.”
When the youth return from their five-day trip, they will be writing a 500-word essay on what they learned and how they helped others.
Proceeds from Saturday’s Mardi Gras “Let the Good Times Roll” fundraiser will support HOPE’s youth activities and mission trips. The event takes place Feb. 22 at 7 p.m. at Taylored Venue and Events in downtown Kingsport. “We would love for people to come to the fundraiser and help us raise funds for the youth of HOPE and their mission trip,” Stella said.
A $25 donation is requested, and tickets are available in advance or at the door. The ticket includes dinner, a drink and music by DJ Express. If you are looking to volunteer or know of a child who would benefit from HOPE, contact Stella at (423) 276-6541. HOPE services all kids who need its assistance. Here, Stella stresses, no HOPE is lost.