When Ronald Mason, executive director and founder of New Foundation of Hope, looks back on nearly twenty years of creating a haven for youth in the community, he sees tremendous success. He can pinpoint at least two dozen clear success stories where graduates of his program went on to college and secured great jobs, some with full scholarships and support along the way. Two are now lawyers, he said, “kids who had no opportunities and found a way there.”
New Foundation of Hope was founded in October 2002 when Mason rented a generous space for kids to safely trick-or-treat on Halloween. This idea continued for seven years until the organization evolved to a full-scale program that includes an after-school tutoring service, a community engagement program, and a summer school camp.
This year’s cohort includes fifty-five low-income youth aged 6-16. The program is provided for free, subsidized through the State of Illinois. Monday through Friday, the kids have arts and crafts, take classes like computer literacy and math, and take field trips once a week to places like Medieval Times, Chicago-area science museums, a beach in Indiana, and several zoos.
“The idea is just to get them out of their usual surroundings and broaden their horizon,” Mason says.
New Foundation of Hope has also hosted a large-scale food drive for the last ten years.
“People come up to me and say, ‘I had no idea where I was going to get my next meal,’” said Mason. “So, for me, it’s about the kids and their families. They are just as involved in the process.”
While they remain standing after a difficult stretch from the pandemic, Mason is looking forward to some stability. “It’s been a challenging year,” he said. “You do your best to sustain yourself, but it’s always an uphill climb. Poor communities see direct hits year after year. We see the devastation in the community.”
He describes New Foundation of Hope as a small, but mighty nonprofit that should stand side by side with better-known nonprofits like the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago.
His hands-on approach comes from a deep history in nonprofit fundraising and development work. In fact, when Mason first had the idea to form New Foundation of Hope, he sent letters to each of his former employers asking for their support, detailing his vision. He said they gave him a resounding “go for it,” elated someone was venturing to do what so few nonprofits have attempted—really helping a community from the inside out. Mason was raised in Auburn Gresham, so it was a given that he would make it New Foundation of Hope’s permanent home.
On October 21, 2022, New Foundation of Hope will celebrate twenty years with another safe Halloween gathering. The nonprofit will also host a turkey and ham giveaway in November and December. Mason hopes that this precedes a seismic shift for the organization. He anticipates owning, not renting, a bigger space by the spring of 2023 and is working towards expanding New Foundation of Hope to other locations, one option being his hometown of Reserve, Louisiana. In the meantime, the nonprofit will continue to welcome back their graduates to speak and influence the next generation of hopefuls.
“It never gets old to see a kid come into their own, stay out of trouble, and come back and say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Mason.’”
New Foundation of Hope, 8144 S. Kedzie Ave. Monday-Friday, 9am-4pm. new foundationofhope.org. They’re always looking for experienced after-school tutors; reach out at email@example.com to volunteer.