Eleanor M. Josaitis (died August 9, 2011) is the co-founder of Focus: HOPE. She was engaged in building the legacy of the civil rights organization. For many years, she was the Associate Director of Focus: HOPE. Upon Father Cunningham's death in 1997, she became the Executive Director, and later the CEO. In 2006, she turned over the day-to-day operation to a new leadership team in order to focus her efforts on fund raising. She passed away, of cancer, on August 9, 2011.
She provided leadership and advocacy for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program and made important contributions to public awareness of hunger and malnutrition. Working with co-founder Father William Cunningham, she helped develop Centers of Opportunity education and training programs to help primarily underrepresented minorities gain access to jobs and careers. She served on numerous board and committees, including The National Workforce Alliance Board, the Michigan Council for Labor and Economic Growth, and the Advisory Board for the Arab-American and Chaldean Council. In 2002 she was named one of the most influential women in Detroit by Crain Communications Inc.'s Detroit Business Publication.
Eleanor M. Josaitis co-founded Focus: HOPE, a nationally-renowned civil and human rights organization, with Father William T. Cunningham (1930-1997) in the aftermath of the 1967 Detroit riots. She served as CEO until 2006 when she decided to focus her efforts on fund raising to build an endowment for the future of Focus: HOPE. Driven by a passion for civil rights, Mrs. Josaitis worked with Father Cunningham to develop programs that “use intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty and injustice.” The organization’s food, education and training, community arts, and community development programs have assisted hundreds of thousands of individuals.
Mrs. Josaitis has provided leadership and advocacy since 1971 for Focus: HOPE's Commodity Supplemental Food Program for mothers, children, and senior citizens. She has made important contributions to public awareness of hunger and malnutrition, to the formulation of national policy and responsible legislation, and to effective program management. She chaired the Commodity Supplemental Food Program Steering Committee and hosted the White House Conference on Aging.
With the belief that education and training are the keys to ending racism and poverty, Mrs. Josaitis and Father Cunningham started education programs that have enabled thousands of talented men and women gain access to the financial mainstream. The machinist training program broke both the race and gender barriers in the machinist trades in the 1980s. The information technology program prepares students for industry certifications and the innovative engineering program enables students to earn college degrees while getting hands-on work experience. The organization also has added programs in health care training and weatherization.
The recipient of 13 honorary doctorates and numerous awards, Mrs. Josaitis serves on several boards and advisory boards. She has been inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame and the Heritage Hall of Fame in Detroit and was named one of the 100 Most Influential Women by Crain’s Detroit Business. She and her husband, Donald, live in Detroit. They have five children and seven grandchildren.