A giant mural of butterflies adorns the door to the Hope Center garage. Its caption reads “Wings of Hope,” signifying the journey of the immigrant community in Blue Island, Illinois, said the center’s founder and director, Moises Mendez.
For Mendez, the wings are a reminder of his own family and his own journey through struggle, change and growth, and he hopes that they inspire other families in the area to be and remain resilient.
The Hope Center is a community center born out of a local church with the mission to not simply “give fish” to their neighbors but rather empower those neighbors to become creators and leaders themselves through programs in agriculture, technology and auto mechanics.
Growing up in Blue Island, an underserved community a few miles south of Chicago, was not easy for Mendez. He saw some of his friends fall victim to gun violence. He saw some of his neighbors go to sleep hungry — and some still do, he said.
Despite it all, he weathered storms of poverty and a lack of resources thanks to his hardworking parents, who immigrated to Illinois from Mexico and taught him the value of family, work and faith. Those were the pillars that shaped his life, Mendez said.
So when he found himself with a growing family, multiple college degrees, a fruitful job, a new home and a sports car at age 25, he began to question his mission in life.
“I started thinking about my community and asked myself, ‘Why me? Why did I get these opportunities and not somebody else?’” he said. He recalls praying for clarity: “God, do I use this opportunity to do something else with the gifts that you’ve given me?”
Now, almost 20 years since that initial question, Mendez has found his vocation, he said, and God has answered his prayers.
In 2015, Mendez went back to Blue Island to serve his community as a pastor at a satellite campus of Christian Life Center, but after a couple of years, he saw a need to close the satellite and pivot to offering community services instead. In 2017, he founded the Hope Center “out of a vision to inspire hope in Blue Island.”
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