Leameal and Crystal Davis opened Community Hope Center (CHC) in a former fire station in Cottage Hills, Illinois, in April 1988. Having been brought out of poverty, the Davises sensed God calling them to provide assistance to those who were living in poverty. They were particularly moved to help those in need of food, who often came to the Davises’ home seeking assistance. The Davises solicited food and clothing donations from the community and offered the groceries to anyone who came to them in need. The Davises invited members of various churches to help collect, sort, and distribute food at CHC. The only requirement that the Davises had was that volunteers pray with and for everyone who received food. Prayer remains the heart of CHC’s ministry to this day. We are not a faith-based organization, but rather a Christ-centered ministry.
In its first month, CHC helped 100 people with food and clothing. In 1989, CHC serviced 7,580 requests for assistance. CHC’s network expanded to include food donations from St. Louis-based Operation Food Search, St. Louis Area Food Bank, local grocers and many local churches, businesses, and individuals. Donations expanded from food to clothing, toiletries, and household items. Donors gave monetarily to cover CHC’s growing operational expenses. CHC is blessed to say that the ministry has never incurred any debt to cover expenses. We do not take this blessing lightly, and waiting upon the Lord’s provision for the ministry’s needs, along with careful fiscal management, continues to be a guiding principle today.
By 1996, CHC’s operations were excessively cramped in the 1,100 square foot fire station, so CHC’s leadership began seeking in earnest to find or build a larger facility, and God was about to answer in a big way. On January 15, 1997, CHC received a call from the Bethalto School District with an offer to donate the old Forest Homes grade school and 10 acres to CHC. Over fourteen churches and eleven local businesses adopted projects and rooms to help renovate the school, and by December 25, 1997, the center was ready to be moved from the old fire station to the school, which remains the ministry’s current location at 1201 Hope Center Lane, Cottage Hills, IL.