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Advocacy, Equity and Community – Focus: HOPE – C to C, The Commitment to Community Podcast

May 5, 2022

Our newest episodes of C to C takes our “show on the virtual road” expanding into Oswald geographic markets. This episode brings the spotlight to Focus: HOPE, a Detroit-based nonprofit built around providing advocacy, community and equity to everyone they serve. Thank you to Ashliegh Mitchell, Corporate Philanthropy Officer at Focus: HOPE, and my special co-host for the episode, Cathy Kosin, Senior VP, Managing Director, Oswald Companies.




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SCHMITZ: Hey, it’s Christina and we’re back with C to C the Commitment to Community podcast from Oswald Companies. We’re so thrilled today to welcome Ashliegh Mitchell and Cathy Kosin, how are you today?

MITCHELL: Doing so good. I’m so excited to be here.

KOSIN: Yeah, great to be here. Thanks, Christina.

SCHMITZ: Great. Well, Ashliegh, would you mind introducing yourself and your role and tell us a bit about Focus Hope?

MITCHELL: Sure. So I am Ashliegh. I am the corporate philanthropy officer here at Focus Hope. Some of the things that I do as a corporate philanthropist is identifying new corporate relationships, managing and growing current corporate relationships and generating revenue and secure gifts to support unrestricted and campaign goals. I also implement events. I’m a liaison to the advisory committee along with the engagement of our Future Leaders of Hope which is a committee of young professionals who are committed to our mission. In a nutshell, Focus Hope is a national civil and human rights organization and a trusted member of the community for over 50 years. As a result from the Detroit riots, our cofounders Father William Cunningham and Eleanor Josaitis pledged to unite a community that was divided on racial and economic lines. So in 1968, Focus Hope was born with a mission that is as important today as it was when it was first adopted. And that’s to recognize the dignity and beauty in every person. We pledge intelligent and practical action to overcome racism, poverty and injustice.

SCHMITZ: Thank you. Thank you for sharing that, Cathy. So this is our first podcast in our Michigan, in our Michigan market, in our Detroit branch. Cathy, can you share? Well, first, if you want to just introduce yourself for our audience here. But then how did we cross paths with Focus Hope?

KOSIN: Great. Thank you, Christina, for that. Again, I’m Cathy Kosin, senior vice president and market leader for Oswald in Michigan. One of our core values is PIRC, passion for excellence, integrity, resourcefulness, but that commitment to community for me is the big one, right? We put that on steroids here in Michigan. And when COVID hit, we were trying to figure out a way to keep our team together and still be active in the community. And we stumbled across Focus Hope. They were a new client for us from an insurance perspective, but really just they afforded us this opportunity where we could still bring our teams in a COVID compliant way. They work the senior food line, I can tell you that we’re doing it monthly right now and folks really look forward to it. We’re super competitive. The first thing we ask when we walk in the door is what’s the largest from a tonnage perspective that you’ve packed? And then we get in there and we try to beat it every time. And then we’ve also been afforded the opportunity to then work the line as the cars come in and kind of make sure that put the boxes in people’s trunks.

It’s given us a chance to really connect with the folks that Focus services. And then Ashley we knew from her prior employer. When she came on, Beth Larson here on my team will help coordinate our commitment to community. We were like, yeah, we’re looking for ways to really strengthen that relationship further and figure out ways that Oswald can be even more ingrained within Focus Hope and how we can help. Right. Because sometimes it’s about stroking a check and we all can use the funds. But other times, that other gift and that gift of your time or that gift of your network. Posting things on my LinkedIn page or whatever to just kind of help in any way that we can to keep pushing their mission out. We look to try to do great.

SCHMITZ: Well, Ashley, what is your calling to this cause? What is your connection for what you do here for Focus Hope?

MITCHELL: I think personally that I believe that everyone wants to help. I feel like everybody has a desire to want to go out of their way and really help a cause and a mission that they truly believe in. I love being that connecting piece. I love introducing new people or re-engaging partnerships that we’ve had in the past to talk about what we’re doing in the community and what impact that we’re having and hopefully igniting a spark of wanting to get back engaged or. We have four main programs here that we service. So if people are really invested in helping children in our youth development, we have a program for that where we have a program that we build from cradle to career pipeline, education opportunities for over 200 children every year from an early Head Start. We have a youth development program that includes education, recreation, and leadership development. They have an Excel photography program. We have summer day camps. We have mentoring and tutoring. We are a pipeline for our workforce development program. So we’re really trying to offer work readiness and pre apprenticeship programs in a range of, like, in demand career field, so that’s it fundamentals where training, CDL work, writing has high low manufacturing, industrial robotics and welding, tree trimming Academy.

And then along with that, we’re also trying to help people overcome barriers that come when people gain employment. So we have a food for seniors like Cathy was talking about, where we serve over 410 seniors each month. And all this is done under the umbrella of, like, advocacy, equity and community. I think with me and my passion is just really connecting people to want to help their neighbors and to really find something that they really, really love. Overcoming racism and really trying to bring about social justice is just something that I’m completely passionate about, especially within the last two years that were very challenging. I’m just really proud to be working and being a part of a team that’s been trying to overcome these systemic challenges for over 50 years.

SCHMITZ: Well, thank you for sharing that. Cathy and I are very close to DE&I, Diversity Equity, Inclusion from the Oswald Company side, would you mind digging a little bit deeper about either your efforts, initiatives, the commitments, and the role that your organization plays within your communities?

MITCHELL: Yeah, absolutely. Like I said, we’ve been around for 53 years, and we are an anti-racism organization. So we advocate for all systems of change. And all of our programs are through this lens. We have two events that support our social justice efforts. We have a Heroes for Hope, where we recognize community leaders dedicated to social justice. And we also have our Eleanor’s March for Hope. So for over 45 years, this event has brought thousands of men, women and children of every background to walk the streets of Detroit and support our social justice issues that are important to them, but also to our mission. This happens in October. We want to promote a Metropolitan community where everyone can truly live in freedom, harmony, trust, and affection. And like I said, all of our programs are under this anti-racism approach. So we have this race equity lens where our approach and our work are through with questions in mind, like, how does this create opportunities for people of color, and how are we sure people of color will benefit the most from what we’re doing? So again, what I’m really proud for Focus Hope is that all of our programs and services are under the lens of advocacy, equity, and community empowerment.

SCHMITZ: Great, Cathy, in reflection of what Ashliegh shared being a community member, being a corporate partner, how are some of the programs and initiatives that she shared being reflected? As you’re leading our team or new opportunities are arising in the community service area.

KOSIN: We’re constantly trying, I think one of the misnomers, is that we have to build it so that people will come right. Part of diversity, equity and inclusion is taking their ideas as well. I think what we’re trying to do is partner with our employees, understand the things that they’re passionate about, and figure out ways that we can support that. So that will bring that diversity naturally. Because everyone, while we all may have one common thing about us, which is that we work at Oswald, we all come from different ethnic, socioeconomic race. Everyone has this different background. And so just by bringing together and I think lending voices or giving those people voices so they can say this is what I’m passionate about or this is what I have concerns about. And then looking at our partners like Focus Hope to see, OK, how can we take these things that our employees feel passionate about and marry them up with the mission of our nonprofit clients and others in the community that we support so that we can help, continue to assist and strengthen? We say DE&I and add belonging to that, because I think it’s not just belonging at work.

It’s belonging in your community. And if you go home every night and you just pull in your garage and you close the door and you don’t come outside and interact, do you really belong to your community? And when you come to work, if you just sit in your tube and you work all day long, you really don’t ever pop up over the wall, do you really belong at work? And so looking for ways to make sure we belong wherever we are? I don’t know if I answered your question correctly.

SCHMITZ: Yeah. And actually, from your perspective, I know our time is limited here. And I know we couldn’t cover the full span of what Focus Hope offers for its clients, for its community. But is there anything else you wanted to touch on, specific for our audience, specific about the organization or maybe some highlights or ways that you could see people getting involved?

MITCHELL: Absolutely. I love what Cathy said about the sense of belonging. And I think that when you belong to your community, your passion for the community grows. I always offer an introduction to Focus Hope. I would love for anyone to contact me to learn more about what we can offer. We are always looking for volunteers. I think that’s a great step in the door of becoming a partner. And like Cathy said, I think it’s really powerful and impactful when you can do this with your co-workers or even with your family. It gives you the sense of not only belonging, but the sense of doing good for the community. So we are always in need of volunteers. And then just any type, if you’re wanting to just get involved, just reach out. There’s always an opportunity to partner. There’s always a sense of belonging. And I would love to share more about our mission and share more about the great work that we’re doing in the community. My door is always open…I would love to answer questions, find ways to get people involved and to really just have a great partnership. I love to be in your life as much as you would want to be an art. I’m just extremely grateful for this opportunity and like I said my door is always open. If people want to contact me to learn more or find ways to give back to the community, I’m here for it.

SCHMITZ: Thank you Ashliegh and Cathy for your time and this important conversation. The real aim of all of this is to create a Halo effect and to get other people involved in the organization, bring that awareness to the issues that matter to your clients and then just create more of a sense of community and energy around this as we are trying to get out of the pandemic and back into these service opportunities. So Ashliegh, real quick before we close here, how can people get in touch with you or learn more about Focus Hope?

MITCHELL: They can visit our website which is or they can email me it’s Ashley Mitchell at my name is spelled kind of weird but you can always give me a call and you can visit our website at

SCHMITZ: Great. Thanks so much for your time.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and web formatting.

Introducing the C to C podcast, an oscast by Oswald production

Commitment to Community is a core value of Oswald; it’s the foundation of who we are and the purpose behind all we do. The C to C podcast provides a platform for nonprofit partners to share their stories and discuss the critical issues facing their clients. Our goal: create a halo effect of service and support, inspiring our audiences to align with causes that speak to them and take action in their companies and communities.

Hosted by Christina Capadona-Schmitz, VP and director of marketing communications and leader for community engagement, this podcast series features in-depth interviews and highlights the good works happening throughout our communities.