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Ladies of Hope Ministries: An NFL “Inspire Change” Story

The New York-based LOHM works toward criminal justice reform by focusing on poverty, education, job training, and community activism.

Weeks 17 and 18 of the NFL were tabbed for a showcase of the league’s “Inspire Change” social justice programs, placing grant partners focused on causes like education, criminal justice reform, and community empowerment front and center for the very first time.

Over the past week, Boardroom has shined a spotlight on four partner organizations doing critical work in their communities and around the country: Community Justice Exchange, City Year, Oregon Justice Research Center, and Metropolitan Family Sevices.

Today, we conclude our series by going behind the scenes of Ladies of Hope Ministries.

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What is Ladies of Hope Ministries?

“This partnership is more than I ever imagined and I’m super excited to continue building with the NFL,” said Topeka Sam, the founder and executive director of the Ladies of Hope Ministries in an interview with Boardroom.

Sam and the LOHM were first awarded a grant by the NFL last year. “It’s been really great because we are able to engage more people through the NFL,” she said.

The Ladies of Hope Ministries’ mission is epic both literally and figuratively. They use the word “EPIC” as an acronym that stands for Ending Poverty and InCarceration of women and girls around the world. They do this through two paths: (1) Direct service and sustainability and (2) policy and advocacy.

LOHM has several initiatives under its umbrella that help further its goals for building stronger, healthier, more equitable communities. They include:

  • The Hope House, a co-living space that houses girls who are impacted by any state system of violence. Women and girls there are given a safe place to live and also receive mentorship and guidance. There are currently two Hope Houses, with one located in the Bronx, New York and another in New Orleans, Louisiana.
  • The Angel Food Delivery Project, supported by Instacart, Whole Foods, Wegmans, Fairway, Food Lion, and Costco, coordinates the purchase and delivery of healthy bags of groceries to families struggling with food security every day of the week. 
  • The Pathways 4 Equity program, through which the Ladies of Hope partner with corporations to have conversations with their human resources departments and diversity and inclusion offices to aid in the efforts to hire more people of color and women. 
  • The Faces of Women Imprisoned (FOWI) program, which trains women to use their voices so that they feel empowered not just to act, but to say no. The LoHM have trained 50 women to date.
  • The EPIC Ambassadors program, which trains women to draft legislation, interact with local officials, and ultimately get bills sponsored and passed. At the end of the program, participants are state-registered as lobbyists.

Unlike City Year, Topeka Sam and the Ladies of Hope Ministries were not previously partnered with the NFL or its teams before they were awarded a grant. The ball first got rolling when Sam was introduced to the league’s executive vice president of football operations, Troy Vincent — he felt that the LOHM was something the league had to support and encouraged them to apply. 

“When we got the call that we did receive support, we were elated. We never thought that the NFL would want to support work that actually focuses specifically on women. The reason I thought that is because the NFL is a male-dominated sport and because of that many people in this work thought that this is even something we would be considered for,” said Sam. 

The NFL awarded a $250,000 grant to Ladies of Hope in January of 2021.

The NFL’s grant specifically supports the Faces of Women Imprisoned and EPIC Ambassadors programs. At the FOWI, the money goes toward:

  • Recruiting, marketing, communications, and a partial salary for the cohort director and booking agent.
  • Supplies, training (in public speaking, for instance), speakers’ bureau software, curriculum augmentation for the cohort, and graduation programs

At the EPIC Ambassadors program, funding is focused on:

  • Salaries for EPIC regional ambassadors and the program’s director of advocacy and engagement
  • Training and development, including travel

Ladies of Hope x NFL: The State of the Partnership

As Sam concludes:

“The fact that I have the opportunity to share our work here on a larger platform in order to help other people see what we are doing is critical to the work that we need to do. As a partner, I can always reach out to people at the league office any time and they will support any idea that I might have.

“The fact that we’re scaling our organization to so many cities around the country and just to be connected to the teams in those areas, it has just been really great. Anything that the NFL can do, they do [to help]. You don’t get that type of support from other partners and so that opens up greater opportunities.

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Click here to learn more about Ladies of Hope Ministries and find out how you can support the organization.

About The Author
Randall Williams
Randall Williams
Randall Williams is a Staff Writer covering sports business and music for Boardroom. Before joining the team, he previously worked for Sportico, Andscape and Bloomberg. His byline has also been syndicated in the Boston Globe and Time Magazine. Williams' notable profile features he has written include NFL Executive VP Troy Vincent, Dreamville co-founder Ibrahim Hamad, BMX biker Nigel Sylvester and both Shedeur and Shilo Sanders. Randall, a graduate of "The Real HU" - Hampton University - is most proud of scooping Howard University joining Jordan Brand nearly three months before the official announcement.