Brenda Eheart

Ashoka Fellow
Rantoul, Illinois, United States
Fellow Since 2008


This profile was prepared when Brenda Eheart was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Brenda has created a radical new approach to solving social problems by transforming the idea of an old-fashioned, close-knit neighborhood into a purposeful intervention. Brenda believes that, given the right circumstances, ordinary people of all ages will care for one another in ways that traditional social services cannot. Starting with foster care and adoption, she broke from conventional approaches by establishing Hope Meadows, an intentional community that is the primary intervention. Brenda recognized that abused and neglected children need both nurturing adoptive families and caring neighborhoods in which to be supported, that many older adults want lives infused with meaning and purpose, and that a community’s economic development strategies should emerge from its social purpose. She is changing the way we think about social service delivery, retirement, and community development.
Hope Meadows became the prototype of Generations of Hope Communities (GHCs). GHCs offer an alternative approach to the myriad programs that have not produced significant social change. GHCs are purposeful, multigenerational neighborhoods where the entire community organizes around a potentially long-term social challenge with which some residents are struggling. Unlike community-building efforts, Hope Meadows is not an end in itself but a vehicle for action. While social services tend to be narrow in focus, deficit-oriented, constrained by rules, and provided to or for someone, a GHC generates support for its members and their problems on an ongoing basis and builds on individual and family assets. Led by the people who choose to care for and rely on each other, this holistic approach offers healing, hope, and love to those who need it most.
Brenda intends to establish these communities, where “one generation’s needs become another’s salvation,” as a powerful new way for society to address daunting social challenges. She established the Generations of Hope Corporation (GHDC) to help other communities address the problems they face and improve the prospects of the vulnerable populations they include, such as teen mothers, children in the juvenile justice system, and homeless youth.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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