Melyssa Barrett: Welcome to The Jali Podcast. I’m your host, Melyssa Barrett. This podcast is for those who are interested in the conversation around equity, diversity, and inclusion. Each week I’ll be interviewing a guest who has something special to share or is actively part of building solutions in the space. Let’s get started.
A small town girl from Lake County, California, Letitia Hanke grew up dreaming of a music career. Recognized from childhood for her musical talents, she attended Sonoma State University envisioning a future in the performing and recording arts.
When the opportunity arose, she took a position at a prominent roofing company and managed the business for eight years. In 2004, she started her own roofing company, ARS Roofing and Gutters, now celebrating 27 years in the industry. She currently employs 24 full-time, year-round employees servicing the North Bay.
Her vision to advocate for the disadvantage inspired her to start the 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation called the LIME Foundation in 2015. Through three programs, her nonprofit advocates for at-risk youth and seniors in the community by providing health services, music and arts, and construction trades education and training.
Some of her accomplishments include 2008 Spirit of Sonoma Honoree Award winner, 2014 Small Business of the Year Award from Governor Gavin Newsom, 2015 Entrepreneurial Innovative Spirit Award winner by the North Bay Leadership Council, 2015 Women in Business Award by the North Bay Business Journal, 2016 Northern California Small Business Award by the California Black Chamber of Commerce, 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the National 100 Black Women Council, 2018 North Bay Business Journal Nonprofit Leadership Award, 2018 4C’s Champion of Children Empowering Youth Award. And I’ll just skip down to the 22. She’s featured in a book by billionaire Jacqueline Reses called Self-Made Boss. In 2022 she also was the Influential Woman of the Year by North Bay Business Journal. In 2023, she is the IB Roof Systems Humanitarian of the Year. And she also received the District IV Spirit Award by Sonoma County Commission on the Status of Women.
And let me just say, you can go through all of her accolades. She’s got accolades as the Walmart Community Playmaker by the Golden State Warriors. She’s got the North Bay Spirit Award by Comcast California and Press Democrat. She was featured on Emmy-winning Mike Rowe’s Returning The Favor. She was also featured on the Emmy-winning Kelly Clarkson show, Residential Roofer of the Year. I could go on and on and on and on. So join me because this woman will truly knock your socks off.
I am so excited that I finally get to speak with Letitia Hanke. She is just a driving force in not only her business, but in the community. And so I am just so thankful and grateful that you have joined me for our conversation today.
Letitia Hanke: I’m happy to be here too. Thank you for inviting me.
Melyssa Barrett: Yes. So you are an anomaly, I would say, in the world when it comes to what you do and how you got there. So I would love for you to just talk a little bit about how you got to where you are. Because it’s one of those things where people’s lives seem to evolve and sometimes in ways where maybe they didn’t expect.
Letitia Hanke: Yeah, I would say that, knowing that how I started off in life. So I’m a roofing contractor, one of the very few Black female roofing contractors. And I didn’t wake up when I was nine years old and say, “I want to be a roofer when I grow up.” I didn’t think that was going to be what I did in life.
I was really bullied as a kid. I grew up in a very, very small, small town, country town. And there were very few Black kids in the school. And so when I was about five years old, my parents moved us from the Bay Area, very diverse Berkeley, up to Lake County. And from the bullying that I injured from kids calling me N-words, spitting on me, saying I’d never amount to anything because I’m Black, I realized that as I grew up and got older, I just wanted to prove those kids wrong. That’s really all I wanted.
And when I was a little older, one of my teachers came over to me and she put a trumpet in my hands and helped me at lunch to play the trumpet and learn music so the kids wouldn’t bully me. And that’s what really helped me to just feel better about myself and realized that I was smart and I can do these things. And she just helped me to realize that in myself.
And as I got older, again, I got into this roofing industry in a very weird way because I was in college for music. I decided that I wanted to be a rock star and go into music when I graduated from high school. And being a very broke student, I needed a job, and started working for a roofing company. At that point, I was 19. I was 19 just turning 20 when I started working there. And I was working there as the receptionist. And then my boss at the time decided to start promoting me to next levels of office manager and then manager.
And then he came to me about four years in and said, “Hey, do you want to buy my company? I want to retire.” And I was in college at the time and I ended up dropping out in my senior year because of the promotion that I got in this career. And I said, “Well, here’s my chance to start a career for myself instead.” And then a couple of years later, he’s like, “Do you want to buy my company?” And I’m like, “I’m not a roofer.” And he’s like, “Are you willing to learn?” At that point, when you’re in your twenties, you’re just like, “I’ll do anything.” And at that point I’m just like, “Sure, why not?” And again, for me it was like, “Okay.” This is again my chance to prove those kids that told me I’d never amount to anything wrong.
And over the years I was able to get my own contractor’s license. In 2004, built an amazing team around me. Some of the people that were still with me from the old company are still here now. And it gave me a chance to be the CEO of this company and be able to then find a way to be able to give back to others.
And that’s how I’ve dedicated the rest of my life as well is just now helping other people that have gone through what I went through and helping them. So that’s just my journey in the short version of it. Definitely a shorter version, but that’s how it all happened. And I just persevered through it all and kept building my career.
Melyssa Barrett: Receptionist to CEO.
Well, clearly, he saw something in you that he didn’t see, perhaps, in other folks. It’s an amazing journey that you have outlined. And I think whether we’re talking about you as a Black woman, a woman in this particular industry, which is typically very male-centric, the accomplishments of you, your company, and what you do for the world is absolutely amazing.
So can you talk a little bit about what does your company do? Because I’m sure people are like, “Okay, so what is going on?” Now that we know how you got there, what do you do? And how do you bring elements into your work that actually fulfill your mission as a person? Because you’re pretty amazing.
Letitia Hanke: Thank you. Yeah, this is a very male dominated industry. But it’s also very White male dominated. So I always have to bring that to the forefront because when you think of roofers or when you call roofers, that’s usually who you’re going to get. If you go to a roofing convention, that’s what you’re going to see.
I remember I spoke in a convention in Florida just a few months ago and it was about 3000 roofers from around the country. And they had me come and speak on diversity. It was great stuff. And I’m looking around this audience. As far as females, there were three of us in that whole room. As far as Black people in the roofing industry, there was two of us in the whole room. And that’s how it’s been as long as I’ve been in this industry.
I specialize in commercial and residential roofing. So I do hotels and big HOA and condominium associations. And we do re-roofing and gutters and just all those aspects of roofing. But I think one of the things that I bring most to my business is just distilling in my team that we’re family, number one. We work together as a team. And that we truly, truly care about our clients and we care about their projects and their wellbeing.
There’s a lot of contractors and roofers out there that’s in it for the money. If I was in it for the money, my roofs would be leaking and stuff because a lot of roofers that are in it just to make the money, they’re just slapping on whatever. They’ll sell the cheapest product to a client to make a big profit. I don’t do that. And my whole team here, we would rather risk making a bigger profit knowing that my client’s going to have a roof that’s a lifetime roof, that’s going to be problem-free, that they don’t ever have to think about. And I only offer products that are going to be lifetime and literally problem free.
I would sacrifice, literally sacrifice a project if I know another contractor is bidding a really cheap type roof, and the client will come back to me and say, “Hey, this roof is using this product. Can you bid to do that product?” If it’s a cheap product, I say no. I’m like, “No, thank you. Good luck.” Because I don’t feel like we have to do that. Number one, we don’t have to devalue what we’re doing to be competitive and get a job. And I would rather work with clients that see the value in spending a little more money to get longevity. So that’s who we are. And all of us feel that same way here.
And luckily we’ve got a great amount of clients that just believe in that as well so we stay busy all year round. And that’s just who we are as a company. That’s who we are.
Melyssa Barrett: I keep saying how fabulous you are. I know the bio that I read at the beginning will not even begin to do you justice in terms of all of the awards and things that you are doing in the world.
So can you talk a little bit… Because I think the last one I remember, I think you were Influential Woman of the Year last year or something like that. And I continue to be amazed with all of your accolades, which are absolutely valid.
But you’re doing some wonderful things in the world with what you do with your company to give back to the world. And maybe I’m one of those people when we think about companies and what they do, especially when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion, there are so many things that companies can do. And yet you have created and chosen many particular components, not only to give back to the community, but also as a way to help others.
And I am not sure how you got all this in your head to do it, but I would love for you to spend a little bit of time talking about not only what you did, but how it’s actually impacting others.
Letitia Hanke: Yeah. I love talking about this part. Okay, so I was the president of the North Bay Black Chamber for about 10 years. And I went to this convention in Washington DC. And there was a lady there named Sherita Herring. She’s amazing. And she started talking about the nonprofit world and how the NFL is a nonprofit. And she’s just started talking about all these different places that are nonprofits. I’m like, “What? How are they a nonprofit?” And she said, “You could build a nonprofit around all the things that are important to you in your life.”
And I had started this program in 2012 called Give Back to Save Your School. Back in 2012, every re-roof that we did, we would donate 1% of our profit to the school of my client’s choice. So they can choose whatever school, maybe it was their middle school or their high school, whatever it was, and we would write a check and send it on their behalf to that school.
And it was something I loved. And that happened because my son’s school, when he was in elementary school, they’d always send these notices home. Like, “Parents, can you please donate paper towels and pencils and paper?” I’m like, “Aren’t schools supposed to have those supplies?” And I’m like, “Wow, schools are really needing our help.” And that’s why I started the program.
And then I went to this convention. It was in 2014 when I went to the convention. And she started talking about the nonprofits and she said, “Okay, the first 10 people that sign up will have a 15-minute consultation with me for 15 minutes.” And she said, “Okay, go.” I’m like, “What?” She said, “What are the things that are important to you?” And I just started talking to her about, “Okay, well, I’ve always wanted to do a music school for kids named after my family name, which is Turner.”
So she says, “Great. What else?” I’m like, “Oh, well, my parents have been ill most of my life. And I’d love to be able to help seniors have a better way of life and have better nutrition and exercise and have more longevity and feel good.” She says, “Great. And what will you call that?” I’m like, “Well, right now my Senior Activity Program.” She’s like, “Great. What else?”
I said, “Well, I’m a contractor. And I got into the industry when I was really young. I didn’t really want to go to college, but my parents wanted me to go to college, naturally, because not a lot of people in my family went to college.” And I said, “I got this career in this industry and I want to help others to be able to get into the construction industry because it’s very lucrative.” She said, “What would you call that?” I’m like, “Oh, I want to call it my Roofing and Construction Program.” She said, “Great. Is that it?” I’m like, “Yeah, I think that’s it.”
She says, “Great. Now as the program under your nonprofit…” I’m like, “Oh.” She said, “So go home. Think about what you want to call this nonprofit. And then call me next week.”
So I went home and I started thinking about it. And it just so happened that the next day, that next Monday when my son came home from school, he was crying. And I said, “Well, what’s going on?” He says, “Mom, why do people hate me?” I’m like, “Why? What are you talking about?” He had talked about how some kids have been teasing him. My son is mixed race, and they were calling him N-word. They were picking on his name. His name is Emil, and Emil spelled backwards is Lime. And they would tease him and just call him Lime. He didn’t want to be called that. And I said, “You need to stand up for yourself.” I didn’t do that as a kid, and I wish I had stood up for myself more. And I said, “You really need to do that.”
And that’s when it all clicked for me. I’m going to call it the LIME Foundation. And it’s LIME with all caps, L-I-M-E, all caps, which is just my son’s name spelled backwards. Because it’s just a reminder of me always fighting for our youth that are facing all these adversities and the bullying. And it’s my son. It is about my son so to be something I’ll always work really, really hard for. And that’s why it’s called The Line Foundation.
And I was able to start this nonprofit in 2015. And we named the construction program the NextGen Trades Academy. And now we’re helping hundreds and hundreds of our at-risk and underserved youth find a career in the construction trades. And they are, literally, right out of high school getting jobs with electricians and solar companies and roofing companies, including mine. And then buying homes at 22 and 19 years old, and have a house and their cars. It’s just been very rewarding to see that from the pain that not only I went through, but my kid went through, I was able to create something that now has been helping hundreds and hundreds of our youth around this country.
Melyssa Barrett: The power of that. Because I know you also have a focus on diversity as you go through that process. It was so moving for me to hear so many people, whether they were women or people of color. It truly feels like generational impact. And the thing that you are doing is actually benefiting not only them, but their children, and will now benefit their children’s children. Which is amazing when you have a ripple effect like that, I literally have chills going through my body.
To hear people talk about it, they understand the impact that you’re giving them for the world that they are a part of. And it’s just amazing to watch. So I thank you for everything you’re doing in the world. But it’s an amazing feat. To think that you’re one person and you can’t make an impact, and to see somebody like you who is not only making an impact in your company, but in the world. You are giving that continually. It’s just amazing.
So I know you’re also a musician. Because if I remember correctly, I think I watched the episode of you with Mike Rowe and you were hauling around some drum set or something.
Letitia Hanke: Yes. I’ve been playing. So I’ve been doing music since I was seven. That was when my teacher first put a trumpet in my hands. That was the first time. And I’ve just fell in love with music. Music, just the way it made me feel. And then I took up piano when I was 12. Again, I was playing trumpet up until I was about 12. But again, I got bullied. I happen to have soul lips. And when I would play the trumpet, my lips would kind of spew over the little… Sorry.
Kids will find any reason to bully you, right? And I was just very weak. I didn’t feel supported back then. So I just went ahead and said, “Well, I’m going to take up piano. They can’t pick on my fingers.” So took up piano. Started playing piano when I was 12.
But I started playing drums in the church with my parents, who are both musicians. And I remember it was one of the Sundays, one of the drummers drummed before. But my dad’s like, “Tish, go get on the drums.” And I’m like, “Okay.” And I’m nine, 10 years old. And I just started playing. And so I’ve been playing the drums since I was nine.
And I play at my church locally. And then also there’s some local members that I play with. Some of my local contractors and friends, we play together. I’m doing a big battle of the bands next month. Right now I play for fun. I play for pleasure and my sanity. Let’s just say that. That’s what I play for because that’s my outlet. Everyone should have an outlet, and that’s definitely mine.
But yeah, I definitely have a love and joy for music. And my son plays guitar as well. It’s just at one time I did want to go and do it professionally when I was in college. But again, I got dealt this opportunity to become my own boss, and it was definitely something I wanted to do.
I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I was telling someone the other day that they’re like, “Well, how did you know you wanted to start a business?” And I said, “Well, when I was in school, I used to braid people’s hair after school.” I made Hammer pants. You remember Hammer pants?
Melyssa Barrett: Oh, yes.
Letitia Hanke: Those big pants? My mom taught me how to sew, and kids would just provide their material. We charged them like $10. And then I would just sew these Hammer pants. I made earrings. I realized I was always an entrepreneur, so it was easy to get into it when time came. But music was definitely the thing that I always fall back on to make sure that I’m doing my self-care.
Melyssa Barrett: Yes, yes. Well, and talk about that. That is always some… Especially post-pandemic, I think we never give quite enough attention to our own mental health until it’s too late. So I love the fact that you bring music in. My husband was a performer. And he was self-taught, percussionist. And so we have lots of drums around. And I wish I could play, but I am not inclined that way.
Letitia Hanke: Self-care is really important. I really suffered with self-care. I used to make myself sick with stress until I hired a life coach and a therapist and a business coach. So between the three of them, they really helped me to see the importance, the real importance, to make sure that you’re taking care of yourself and taking time to do the things that you enjoy. Or before you know it, life just passes you by. I’m such a workaholic. My son turns 21 tomorrow. And I keep thinking back.
Melyssa Barrett: Happy birthday, Emil.
Letitia Hanke: Thank you.
Melyssa Barrett: Happy birthday.
Letitia Hanke: I keep thinking back, wait a second. How is he 21? When I was really a workaholic and wasn’t taking out enough time, Those years when he was 8, 9, 10, 11, it just passed me by. And so I finally had to just stop. And it took quite a few years to get to that point. But stop and realize that I needed to smell the roses a little bit more.
And having those coaches really keep reminding me of that and helping me through time management and stuff like that. That’s what allowed me to be able to take more time off for myself, do some more traveling. And then making sure that I’m spending time with my family. And then doing the things that I need to do, like getting a massage once a month. Putting it on my calendar. So it’s there on my calendar. I do it every third Thursday, 3:00-5:00. It’s on my calendar. So it’s still feels like a work thing because it’s on my calendar. But it’s just me making sure that I have it documented. Hey, this is the time you’re going to take off for yourself.
So I definitely recommend that people really sit down and think about what are you doing for yourself? And are you taking care of yourself mentally and your health as well?
Melyssa Barrett: I love that. I love it. So as a CEO in the roofing industry, are there things that you would have either told your younger self, or to the folks that are in your academy? Are there things that you wish you would have done different or that you would advise people? Because I think a lot of people now, you hear a lot about solar and how AI is going to change the world, but at some point you still have to build an actual house. So how does that transform what you’re doing and what kind of advice would you give for people that want to go into the industry?
Letitia Hanke: One of the things I think about a lot is when I first got into this industry as a female, when I first started, I just wanted to blend in. I was afraid to be out there. I was afraid to be an individual. And so when I first got in, I was wearing polo shirts and jeans and my boots.
And I’ll never forget my very, very first networking event that I went to. A bunch of contractors there. And I walk in. I’m in my polo shirt with my logo on my left shoulder there. And I’m walking in and, “Oh, you’re with ARS roofing?” And I’m like, “Oh, yes. I’m the CEO of the company. My name’s Letitia.” And he’s like, “Oh, from the kitchen to the rooftop, huh?” That was my very first interaction was with that comment. And I realized from that moment, and I had another incident later on, that I didn’t want to hide anymore. I wasn’t putting my face on anything.
And so if there’s anything that I would change is that for all those years that I hid in the background, signing my name L.R. Hanke, so they would think that I’m a man. And not putting my face on anything, so they wouldn’t know that I’m a female or Black. I stopped doing that about just about eight years ago. And when I did that and I started signing my full name and I started putting my face on all my business cards, have my face on it. You go to my website, I’m all over the place. Once I stopped hiding, my business completely skyrocketed.
Because now everyone that I do business with, they know that I’m Black ahead of time. They know that I’m a female. They want to work with me. So I’m now working with people that want to support me and want to work with me. And if I had started that off years and years ago, we would probably be a franchise right now. We would be a bigger company. But it took me a lot of years because I pretty much reverted back to the scared Letitia as a little kid, when I was bullied as a little kid. Because I was being bullied as an adult. And I got stuck in that bubble.
And it was a couple that I had met. What made me come out that shell is this couple that I had been talking to over the phone for weeks about their project. And they’re just like, “Yeah, we’re ready to move forward. We want to look at roofing samples. Let’s do this.” And I’m like, “Great. I’ll be over with the samples and we’ll sign the contract.”
And I get there to their house. And the wife answers the door and she goes, “Oh.” And she steps back. And I’m like, “Oh, huh.” She scared me. And I put my hand out and I’m like, “Hi, I’m Letitia.” She shakes my hand. Then her husband walks over. I’m like, “It’s so great to meet you. I’m Leticia.” And I put my hand out for him to shake it. And he looked down at my hand, back up at me, and then down at my hand again. And he walked away. And I was like, “Okay, should I run? What do I do right now?”
She invites me in. I’m a little apprehensive at this point. She invites me in. We’re sitting down at her kitchen table. And I’m like, “Well, thank you for the time today. Which roof did you decide on? Here’s the sample board.” She says, “Well, actually, I don’t think we’re going to move forward at this time. We are not really ready to do this roof now.” Remind you, I just told you, they asked me to come over and sign the contract. And I said, “Okay. Well, I did bring the sample board over. I know you guys wanted to look at colors. So maybe for the future.” She says, “Let’s just do that on your way out.”
So I said, “Okay, no problem.” And I picked up my stuff and I’m walking out the door. And her husband comes back over as I’m walking out the door and he says, “I just want to let you know we have an alarm system on our.”
Melyssa Barrett: Oh, my goodness.
Letitia Hanke: And I still remember that feeling. It’s not a good feeling. And I remember I said, “Thank you very much for your time today.” And I got in my car. I had never felt like that in my life. And I went back to my office and I told my staff what happened. And I shredded their contract. And I said, “We don’t have to do business with people like this.”
And that day forward is when I called up my graphic designer and I said, “We’re doing an overhaul.” And that’s the day I changed everything, everything. And from that day forward, my business has just been booming.
And because my business started booming is how I was able to start the nonprofit. So it gave me what I needed, that boost. That little kick that I needed to make that happen.
Melyssa Barrett: I don’t that everybody wants a kick like that. But I appreciate and applaud the fact that you used that negative energy to turn it into something that is literally changing people’s lives. It’s like your purpose is so fundamental, and I’m so glad that you were able to fuel your own transformation out of such a negative experience.
Even in corporate, people experience… I would call that more than a microaggression. But it’s incredible how each of those types of experiences, it’s like scars that are left, like razor blade scars left on your body. You don’t get rid of them. They go with you. And hopefully they fuel something positive, like they did in your case. But a lot of times it’s, again, that mental health. It’s still there, right? It’s a scar.
Letitia Hanke: It’s still there.
Melyssa Barrett: It will remain. And it’s just so sad that there are people in the world that still have those types of reactions.
Letitia Hanke: Reactions. Yeah.
Melyssa Barrett: Yeah. That brings me back. Now look, that brings me back.
Letitia Hanke: Yeah.
Melyssa Barrett: Wow.
Letitia Hanke: I bet you have some stories.
Melyssa Barrett: Oh, yeah. I have some stories.
So now with the things that are going on with the LIME Foundation and all of the work that you’re doing in roofing and gutters. And I know you guys do a whole lot of stuff. What types of things do you have built in mind for the next 10 years? You seem like you’re one of those people that has a vision.
Letitia Hanke: As far as my roofing business, I’ve got such a great team that makes sure that company runs really smoothly. But nonprofit-wise, my goal is to be able to have a NextGen Trades Academy all over the country because it’s needed. And what we learned from being on that Mike Rowe’s show, it’s called Returning the Favor. And we were on the Kelly Clarkson Show. And what happened were, people from Kentucky and Florida and Denver and Utah and New Jersey, they were calling us and emailing us, “Oh my gosh, we need a Trades Academy here.”
And we just started recognizing that this isn’t just a problem we thought we were having right here in our little county. It’s happening everywhere. And there’s youth everywhere that are going to college because they don’t think there’s anything else to do. They’re getting into debt, just like I did. I had student loans. My parents couldn’t afford to put me through college. So the grants that I did get got me through a year. But the rest of the time I had to get student loans to get through the other couple years. And so I was in debt for many years. I just paid off those student loans just a couple of years ago. So I’m like, “How do we not have our 17 and 18 year old kids in debt because they’re just going to college just to go?”
And that’s my goal. Is to say, “Hey, there are other alternatives.” Now, have I had some of our youth go through our NextGen Trades Academy and then say, “You know what? I think I’m still going to go to college.” Yes, we have. We’re like, “Go.” But we’ve also had some of them realize they’re going to go to college for architecture. They’re going to go to college for engineering. They still realize that they want to go to college, but they want to stay in this industry. And that we’ve had the youth that just said, “Great, I’m ready to get a job with an electrician or welding.” And then we got them a job in welding or with different contractors.
So that’s what I want to do for the next 10 or 20. Until I retire, that’s what I want to do. I want to build this program up and help our at-risk and our… And the program’s open to all of our youth, but I definitely have an emphasis on our underserved youth, our BIPOC youth, our at-risk youth, our probation youth that just need an opportunity in life. And our young women in industry in these fields, that want to go in these fields but think that they can’t or shouldn’t because it’s male-dominated. That’s why I do what I do. Because I know that they just need to be taught. And they just need to know that it exists and it’s an opportunity for them.
And that’s what I want to do. The stories that I hear about the lives that we’ve been able to change. Students that were homeless, living in their cars, and now they have a beautiful apartment with their family. And that’s all I want to hear. I want that joy and that happiness and to know that I saved someone’s life. That someone who was in despair just needed to know how smart they were and that they were capable and that they had a purpose in this life.
Melyssa Barrett: Yes, I love it. Wow, that’s amazing.
So tell us how to get a hold of you and the LIME Foundation. I know people are going to be interested in figuring out just how to connect with you for whatever reason, whether it’s for their roof. But I know you’re outside of the Bay Area.
Letitia Hanke: Yeah. We’re mainly Marin County, Sonoma County, and Napa Counties. We do go out of area towards the Bay Area for larger projects, but we’re mainly in those counties.
But as far as just learning a little bit more about us, we could go to arsroofing.com. Www, of course. And just learn more about us, roofing wise. Just in case you have friends or family in the area that may need our services.
But for our nonprofit, you would just go to the limefoundation.org. The two TV shows that we were on, that’s all on there under our videos. And you can hear from some of our students. We have student stories on there and contractors. And then at our Contact Us page, you can get in touch with me directly, as well, if you just want to chat.
Melyssa Barrett: And I’m assuming, as a foundation, you’re always looking for donations and sponsorships as well.
Letitia Hanke: Oh, you know what, thank you so much for saying that, Melyssa. Yes, we’re always looking for… That’s how we get through. That’s the only way we survive and continue this program are from people that want to support the program.
We have corporate businesses that sponsor actual cohorts program. We do about eight cohorts a year, and we’re always looking for contractors in the Bay Area. Because the Bay Area is the next place that we’re coming to so we need contractors in the Bay Area that are looking to hire and mentor our youth and also be speakers for our program. And that’s something that we’re always looking for, is connections. Because when I first started the program, I only had 11 contractors when we first started in 2015. Well, 2017 is when we officially started the NextGen. But now we have 168 contractors that are part in the program.
So we are growing. That’s Sonoma and Marin County. And we’re growing and heading to the Bay Area. We have a few contractors already in the Bay Area, so we’re looking for a few more. And you can donate on the same website that I just said, the limefoundation.org. You can click on there and be able to donate and actually sponsor a student through the program. It’s about $1,800 to sponsor a student. And that includes, they get tools, they get their OSHA safety certification. So they have a whole big…
And really quickly, I just want to mention. In our program that we do for NextGen, we also teach them life skills. We talk to them about good health and how it’s important to sustain good health for good energy and overall body health. We talk about financial literacy, the importance of how they need to save their money and be able to be more financially stable when they get older. I wish I had known that information. When I was 18, I got an American Express card and went and bought a bunch of shoes. And then found out I had to pay that money back.
So we teach them to be able to save their money. We also teach them about basic life skills, like writing a really good resume that’s going to get them that job. And then the most important part is our stress management course that we teach in that class. And how to deal with the everyday stresses that are going to always come up in your life. We give them tools of how to work around it and mentally know that they’re always going to be there. If you utilize certain tools, you can get through anything. So know that that’s what you’re supporting. You’re supporting that whole program. So I hope you reach out to me. Thank you so much.
Melyssa Barrett: Awesome. Well, I know this has been an awesome conversation. And I, honestly, could probably talk to you for hours. So one of these days we’re going to connect for lunch or something.
Letitia Hanke: Oh, yes.
Melyssa Barrett: So I look forward to that. But I am just so glad that you were able to connect and talk about all of the wonderful things that you’re doing. And so I just thank you for joining me on The Jali Podcast today.
Letitia Hanke: Thank you so much. Have a great day.
Melyssa Barrett: Thank you.
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