The Oak Park, Ivanhoe, Palestine and Santa Fe neighborhoods in Kansas City, Missouri’s east side once made up a prosperous community. This area once produced leaders like Walt Disney, Buck O’Neil, and Alvin Brooks, but years of neglect deteriorated into one of Kansas City’s most underserved communities.
Substandard housing, high unemployment, drugs and crime, often the product of mass rates of gentrification, have left the neighborhoods in ruin and its residents searching for hope. The youth are particularly vulnerable, often unable to overcome the educational deficiencies, violence, drugs, and sexual pressures they confront daily.
It was into this world a group of young people were called to begin mentoring a group of 30 youth in 1995. One young man felt particularly led to begin working with the youth on a full-time basis. Chris Jhele challenged the group of middle school students to pursue their dream of having a local Christian-centered community center. The kids shoveled driveways, raked leaves and sold candy to earn money for a community center, which they chose to call The Hope Center (THC).
In September 1998, THC was born and transitioned from a grassroots movement to an official nonprofit. Chris, his staff and THC’s board worked diligently to accomplish the mission of reaching and developing urban youth into world-class leaders.
In 2010, THC founded Hope Family Care Center, the only primary care facility within three zip codes. In the fall of 2011, Hope Leadership Academy opened its doors as the only elementary school in the neighborhood. Today, both organizations operate independently but continue to share vision with The Hope Center.
In May 2014, Marvin Daniels, a 30-year veteran of Youth Services and Leadership Development, joined The Hope Center as its CEO/Executive Director. Under this new leadership, The Hope Center has extended its youth programs to five days a week. By increasing its availability to its parents and youth, we are able to provide stability and consistency for our students throughout the week. The Hope Center has incorporated a monthly service projects hosted by teen servant leaders, and an Emerging Leaders internship program that collaborates with two other nonprofits in Kansas City’s urban core. THC’s programs train high school, middle school and elementary students from over 15 campuses across the city in servant leadership and character development. Its staff and volunteer base provide mentorship and additional care scholastically, spiritually and physically for our youth. Today, staff and volunteers at THC continue toward the vision to develop healthy communities on Kansas City’s Eastside where the vulnerable can have hope and flourish.