Sara White has grip on Hope

Reggie White made the most of his time in retirement to help others. He was involved in a number of projects until his untimely death last December. Now, Sara White is doing double time trying to pick up where her late husband left off.

"I'm just trying to pray and see which do I continue, and which do I stop, and what is the best thing for my family," Sara White said. "I'm being selfish, and praying about what I need to do to further our kids, and make sure that they're OK. It's been a hard time."

One project that Sara White plans to continue her involvement is Urban Hope, which she and Reggie helped started in 1997 in Green Bay. Sara White made her first public appearance in Green Bay Monday since her husband's death in December. She was on hand to celebrate the opening of two new businesses made possible by Urban Hope, the small business program that gives beginning entrepreneurs a head start.

"I am very proud that Urban Hope is synonymous with Reggie White," Sara White said. "He worked hard and it's something in his heart that he really wanted to do. He had so many visions, and he was working on so many other things when he passed. Urban Hope is such an accomplishment, but it's not about us. It's about all the people that helped, and the synergy in Green Bay that we have not found in any other city."

Since Urban Hope began in Green Bay, more than 400 beginning entrepreneurs have benefited from the program. This week, five northeast Wisconsin businesses have opened their doors thanks to Urban Hope, and in the past month, 35 businesses have begun. On Monday night, 81 residents from northeast Wisconsin graduated from the program. Urban Hope is planning to expand into Appleton as well.

With Sara White and her children, Jeremy and Jecolia, residing in Charlotte, there was concern that Urban Hope might be one of the projects that Sara White would relinquish. Unstandably, it has been a tough year for Sara. Besides her husband's death on Dec. 26, 2004, of an upper respiratory ailment, Sara has battled multiple schlerosis. Still, the thought of stepping away from Urban Hope never entered her mind.

"It's important that I stay involved because I feel so connected," Sara White said. "I feel like these are my kids."

Besides Urban Hope, Sara White is deciding whether or not to be involved in some other projects that her late husband committed to, like a diversified Nascar team, an amusement park and an aptitude program for children in the Charlotte area.

"He was just doing so many different things," Sara said.

Sara White also has her own children to tend to. Jeremy just finished his first year of college, and Jecolia is preparing to attend a college next year. Jeremy has written some freelance stories for Street and Smith magazine and has an eye on becoming a sportswriter. Jecolia is honoring her father's request to stop playing basketball and sing. She is scheduled to sing the national anthem at the Packers' home opener against the Cleveland Browns on Sept. 18. Her father's number will be retired by the Packers at halftime of the game. Jecolia already has experience singing in front of large crowds. She sang the national anthem at a Philadelphia Phillies game when they honored Jackie Robinson.

In short, if Sara is going to be busy, her children are going to be busy, too. "I am not letting them sit at home," she said. "There is no way a kid is going to sit home all summer. You gonna work."

Speaking of work, Sandee Sims of the new Inspirations Salon in Green Bay couldn't be more grateful for Urban Hope and the Whites.

"It's a dream that I had forever and Reggie and Sara made it possible for me," Sims said, her eyes welling with tears of joy.

That's the bottom line of Urban Hope, and one of many reasons why Sara White will continue to be involved.

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