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Jensen, Founder of H.O.P.E.

Written by Lauren Snow

A sophomore leadership fellow at Elon University, Jensen Roll has always felt a deep connection to people and loves helping those when he feels he can. His passion for service stemmed from the Christian household he was raised in. In that household, Jensen learned from a very young age to believe that he is called to help those in need.

Thus, Helping Other People Eat (HOPE) became the brainchild of Jensen.

HOPE is a social business that seeks to provide sustained financial support for local food kitchens. The organization has created HOPE Certified Restaurants in the community - Cork and Cow, Dottie's Diner, Hursey's Bar-B-Q, and Mosca's Restaurant - where after dining, customers are given the opportunity to donate $1 towards Helping Other People Eat. That $1 goes directly to a local food kitchen to help buy the food. Jensen's goals for HOPE are to change the way people eat out and transform the community by doing so.

"HOPE simply connects people with resources to people without resources by using already existing structures. Being raised a Christian, I see this as a neat way to help people," said Jensen.

He began thinking about social entrepreneurship his freshman year, about the time he became a Meals on Wheels and Allied Churches volunteer. He saw the trouble Allied Churches was having providing enough food to meet the need in Alamance County, especially after the closing of Loaves & Fishes.

"Once Loaves & Fishes closed, Allied Churches was trying to pick up the slack," Roll said. "It made sense trying to build this extra leg to support them and their work feeding the community in Alamance County."

Thus, HOPE was born. The idea came through the need for money and Allied Churches inability to individually cover all the hunger issues in the community. HOPE currently operates under Allied Churches' 501(c)(3) nonprofit status. (Ed. -- On September 18, 2014, we received a note that H.O.P.E. is now operating as an independent nonprofit.)

"It's been a really neat experience working with the support system we have here at Hope," said Jensen. "The idea came from a like minded group of people who have a passion for service and helping others in the community."

"HOPE started from the obvious hunger issues in the community," Jensen said. "Personally witnessing the number of students in the Burlington school system who are dependent on the food system, I was astounded. It's scary to think what the kids eat on the weekend or what they eat when the school is shut down for a week. Will they even eat at all?"

Jensen mentioned that if an individual is disconnected from the problem, its hard to be passionate about helping those impacted by it. His involvement with Allied Churches has allowed him to serve those who are hungry and actually share a meal with them. Jensen said that sharing meals with these affected individuals allows you to learn more about them as well as their story; it's at that point where a long week of working at HOPE doesn't seem that long.

"Being able to put a face and a name with the statistic and realizing that these people are like you and me, truly exemplifies the reasons HOPE was created in the first place" said Jensen.