Hope Lovell, 44, chairs Ingham Community Health Centers. She lives with her husband of 18 years and four kids in Grand Ledge. She also runs Lovejoy Community Services, a home care program. She attended elementary and high school in the Detroit area before earning a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a master’s degree from the University of Michigan.
How did you arrive at chairing the health centers?
I had been programmed to be a doctor by my parents since probably 6 or 7. I was told, “You know, Hope, you’re gonna be a doctor, and you can help people. Be a neurologist or a cardiovascular surgeon.” I went to Michigan State with the full intention of being a doctor. I started off pre-med and got to my second year. I did this neurobiology class, and there was a needle going into a bunny’s eye. Blood spurted everywhere, and nauseousness took over my body.
Needless to say, I ran out the room. I still remember the phone call that I had to make to my mom to say, “Yeah, I’m not gonna make it. I’m not gonna be a doctor if it means that blood’s involved.” I had an interest in numbers. I graduated with a degree in finance.
That was in 2000, one of the only years that an investment firm actually came to Michigan State, because they needed more people. So, I kicked off my career in investment banking working in real estate. I worked in banking for eight years.
But you left banking and finance. Why was that?
I started getting very interested in starting my own business. Even while working in banking, I was trying to start a business. I was trying to do some real estate development stuff on the side that really didn’t go anywhere. My mom, who has worked with individuals with special needs in the school system, bought a group home and was caring for individuals with mental illness. I left Chicago to get married and moved to Lansing, where my husband had a house. We wanted to find a house together, so that left his empty. My mom said, ‘Well, I’m gonna help you start a group home with it.’
At the time, I was a business banker, and one Friday, I got called in and was released from my job while four months pregnant. I was devastated, because I had a business that had only one client and was not making money, and my husband himself was an entrepreneur, so I laid in bed for about a week or so. I had to get real quiet. God helped me through this nine months, and we built the business while pregnant and filled it up so I could start making a salary.
Talk a little bit about how your spirituality informs the work that you do.
Many of us kind of start off by thinking, ‘Oh, these are my gifts, and this is what I want to do.’ But we recognize that it’s bigger than us and let God use us for the purposes that he has called us to serve. It’s been a true honor to see how God has allowed his work to shine through my life.
I remember my first client. I got a call with a referral for a woman who was at the hospital. I went over there, and she was a little lady, about 4-foot-10. She only had one good eye, and she was not verbal. They were like, ‘She needs a place to stay.’ I looked at this lady, and she looked at me, and she did a little-girl grunt. I was like, ‘Oh, snap!’ I called my mom. I was like, ‘They want me to put this lady in my car. We’re supposed to take care of her.’ I had on my little suit and my heels. I was ready to turn on my heels walk back out of that hospital. My mom talked me off the ledge and was like, ‘You can do this, girl!’
We took care of her for about five years. We kept her safe. We kept her happy, and we kept her out the hospital and stabilized her. There were some ups and downs. She was a difficult case. I was like, ‘Wow! To God be the glory!’ because I didn’t realize I had it in me. Sometimes, it’s other people seeing your skills and pushing you to step up to the plate.
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