In May 2005, by Executive Order, Mayor James Baker established the Wilmington HOPE Commission to identify, review and act on social and community issues related violent crime in several areas of the city of Wilmington. Mayor Baker appointed 27 community and civic leaders to serve on a steering committee charged with developing a “Wilmington Plan” based on their review and assessment of existing social service, educational, recreational and cultural programs available to Wilmington residents. The HOPE Commission report would detail the myriad of societal issues confronting Wilmington and present a list of recommendations to serve as the blueprint to revitalizing Wilmington’s underserved communities with a specific focus on delivering programs and services in a comprehensive and targeted fashion.

The resulting report, was submitted to Mayor Baker in March of 2006, highlighting nine key recommendations.

1. Expand the community policing philosophy as the department – wide approach to fighting and preventing crime

2. Create a strong advocacy organization to improve the education of City children.

3. Establish HOPE Zones

4. Improve economic development opportunities for business to thrive and for residents citywide

5. Establish a network of community workers known as HOPE Outreach workers (youth and adults)

6. Coordinate the efforts of the faith-based community education, youth outreach, violence prevention and offender reentry

7. Strengthen ex-offender reentry programs that promote positive integration into the community

8. Embark on a Campaign of HOPE for the City of Wilmington

9. Create a permanent HOPE Commission to ensure that the action plan in the 2006 Report are implemented and sustained.

Since the recommendation of these nine strategies, the HOPE Commission has witnessed a number of significant and sustainable accomplishments across the city.

In 2007, The HOPE Commission was able to bring substantial resources to the Southbridge community to build an infrastructure that aided in the reduction of incidents of violent crime through the Southbridge HOPE Zone Pilot Project. The Southbridge community was supported through numerous initiatives focusing on; healthy neighborhoods, academic achievement and adult and youth employment.

Along with the HOPE Zone pilot, the Wilmington HOPE Commission trained over 300 residents to serve as HOPE Outreach workers. The HOPE Outreach Workers were able to provide resource information in our underserved communities, establish relationships with the business and faith community and most importantly, intimately connect with residents to strengthen community bonds.

In 2010, the HOPE Commission served as the lead agency for Participatory Action Research (PAR) “Safe Communities” Initiative. PAR was a 52-week project focused on engaging 15 community residents in the process of identifying and developing solutions to the root causes of social ills affecting Wilmington’s most underserved communities. The experiences of our PAR ‘family’ and the produced report can be found here [hyperlink]

In 2011, as we shifted toward supporting individuals returning home from prison, we introduced the ‘HOPE Project: A Community Partnership’. The HOPE Project stated goal is to break the cycle of negative academic and social leading children of an incarcerated parent down a similar path.  Our interventions focused on providing counseling and support services, outreach, family engagement as well as enrichment activities. Read about the success of the HOPE Project, here.

After years of working toward healthier and more sustainable communities, we maintain that our current efforts are most effective in reducing incidents of crime when we are able to intervene with young African American males, who cycle in and out of the justice system. These young men commit acts of violence in their home and neighboring communities. Our work has led us to understand the meaning and impact of violence, that fragments our neighborhoods, compounded by the effects of incarceration. We are currently serving individuals returning to our communities from imprisonment at the Achievement Center.

The Wilmington HOPE Commission continues our dedication to contributing to the solutions that will help to reduce incidents of violent crime and assist with healing our community.