Albany, Oregon, 29 December 2015 | 07:00 AM America/Chicago H.O.P.E. has a Chauffeur Hope can come in many forms. In Albany, Oregon, hope may show up in your driveway as a twelve-passenger, 2003 Lincoln Towncar driven by a charismatic, passionate and caring local insurance agent. By day, Mike Speten can be found double-checking his customers’ coverages or helping them recover from the unexpected. However, by night, he is a willing chauffeur of families and individuals facing personal challenges in their lives. Mike’s drive for helping his community is guided by more than a GPS. It is fueled by a combination of faith, positivity and an unwavering passion to assist. Blessing others with a night out on the town In March 2014, Mike and fellow insurance agent, Ron Brockman formed the nonprofit H.O.P.E. Albany. Typically the two are business competitors, but not in this effort. Together, their mission is to find people struggling. They then provide respite from illness, job worries, or a brush with tragedy by gifting folks a night on the town. Focus on Community. “A majority of my conversations with members of the community were about the negative things going on in the media. Crime, poverty, problems in schools, and family struggle were all reoccurring headlines in our community news. It weighs heavy on our hearts and minds,” says Speten. H.O.P.E. Albany’s mission was born from the recognition of those challenges and takes action to help those in the community facing them. Leads on who might need some H.O.P.E. come from the community. The organization is not only looking to help families with financial barriers, they look for where offering the gift of time together with family and friends can inspire hope. They then utilize the talent, resources, and goodwill of the community to make a special memory happen. "Families and individuals facing challenges in life sometimes need a short break from it all which is exactly what H.O.P.E. Albany provides…along with a little bit of style and pampering,” says Speten. The "P” in the organization’s name represents how these special occasions are realized. Partnering with local businesses and individuals is essential to success. H.O.P.E Albany’s partners - local, statewide and divine - are essential in making a request not just a reality but also a treasured memory. No request has been more memorable than one made by the staff at South Albany High School. They were seeking help for a special student facing dire circumstances. Diagnosed with a brain tumor and given only months to live, the teen’s medical expenses were piling up. Her family could not afford for their daughter to attend her senior prom. Not only did the organization help her and friends go to prom, but the school, police department and local businesses united to make sure they had a fancy dinner, limousine, and a fun activity to make it a special night for her and a cherished memory for the family. Thanks are often paid to H.O.P.E. Albany with tears of joy, letters of gratitude, and long lasting friendships. “After an event, emotions are all over the map. Sometimes, I get a chance to sit with these families for dinner and talk about life. Honestly, I feel I am more blessed spending time with them than they may feel after the event,” says Speten. The goal is to make a difference in one family’s life when they are facing a tough time. However, it is often the case that theirs are not the only spirits lifted. After hearing about the experiences of those who get the H.O.P.E. treatment, others in the community are inspired. "Sometimes a family we helped goes out and does something special for someone else that is struggling. At that moment we know we made an impact in this community,” concludes Speten.