There’s Hope for the generations and special needs foster kids

In a small town, Rantoul, in Central Illinois a community of children and seniors live in a special community. The community didn’t occur naturally. It was devised out of the military housing on a retired Air Force base (Chanute). A professor who was tired of merely teaching theory at the University of Illinois felt that special needs foster children deserved more than lip service and theoretical ideas. So, Brenda took action and got creative. What do all kids need? They need a family, the one thing difficult-to-adopt foster kids don’t have. So Brenda found people who would potentially adopt them, pay the mother to stay home and be trained in how to take care of them, and build a community around them. And while she was at it, why not throw in senior volunteer-types who would enjoy having a reduced rent in this community — ”the neighborhood” — and help out once in a while.

Brenda’s idea sounded really good on paper but it took an actual fax to the White House (yes, that’s right) in desperation to get the doors of the Pentagon to open and allow her to buy some of their property. After that, it took a while to engage potential families and seniors to be part of the community. But 16 years later, that’s all just an interesting history along with some highlights like a special invitation from Oprah to be on TV and several awards including the latest $8 million Kellogg Foundation grant. Despite the grant and the attention at Generations of Hope ( you’ll still find Brenda innovating and fine-tuning her idea, which really works, to the rest of the country. Hundreds of special needs children have since been adopted to loving homes, blossoming beyond expectation, because of the love of those at Hope.

Brenda Eheart’s sacrifce for her cause is a living testament to what’s possible when a learned and caring academic professional walks the talk of her research. This an idea that should be replicated to more communities.