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Detroit Program Aims to Provide Job Training, Hope in Tough Times

Eleanor Josaitis co-founded the Detroit program Focus: Hope more than three decades ago to provide job training and other opportunities to the city's residents. With the U.S. mired in a recession and the auto industry future uncertain, her group is reinventing itself.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Our next story profiles how one woman and the project she founded are working to heal deep divides and create new jobs in Detroit, where there's been a prolonged recession. Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro has our report on this social entrepreneur.

    FRED DE SAM LAZARO, NewsHour correspondent: In the 1960s, two million people lived in Detroit. Less than 900,000 live here today. Homes, like factories, are shuttered. The last elected mayor is in jail. And the football team lost all its games last season.

    In a city short on optimism, this woman is known as an apostle of hope.

    ELEANOR JOSAITIS, co-founder, Focus: Hope: It doesn't happen unless we all hang in there together and say, "We're not going to be intimidated by this." God bless you. Keep up the fight.

  • FRED DE SAM LAZARO:

    Eleanor Josaitis has brought reconciliation, even created an island of prosperity, in one of America's most distressed and racially polarized cities. She's equally at ease whether among childcare workers organizing for better pay or Detroit's glitterati, like General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner.

  • RICK WAGONER, CEO, General Motors:

    She's my hero.

  • ELEANOR JOSAITIS:

    Oh, listen to him.

  • RICK WAGONER:

    No, really. Thanks for everything you do, all right?

  • ELEANOR JOSAITIS:

    Love you, hon. Love you.

  • RICK WAGONER:

    Really appreciate it. Now, you take care of yourself and we'll see you…

  • FRED DE SAM LAZARO:

    In 1968, she co-founded an organization called Focus: Hope, whose mission is to meet challenges with intelligent, practical actions, joining the late Father William Cunningham. They began working in Detroit to heal the growing racial divide in a riot-torn city. William Jones, a former Chrysler executive, recently became the group's CEO.

  • WILLIAM JONES, CEO, Focus:

    Hope: Eleanor stands about five-foot-three and generally is the tallest person in the room. And I can say that. I'm six-foot-seven myself. But, generally, she's the person that everybody sees. She's also very, very compelling in terms of presenting the story of Focus: Hope.

  • FRED DE SAM LAZARO:

    In the 1960s, when whites were leaving in droves for the suburbs, Josaitis did the opposite. She took her family, including five children, and moved from the suburbs into Detroit to help Father Cunningham. It was a controversial move that provoked a painful family rift.

  • ELEANOR JOSAITIS:

    Were there challenging times? Extremely challenging, like when my mother hired an attorney to take my five children away from me. But if I'd have kept that pain in my heart, I'd never had been able to accomplish what we've done.

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