HEP: Helping People Help Themselves

Ashley Lowery, Class of ’16

As alumni of Leadership Pinellas, you are probably pretty familiar with HEP. We try to cover just about everything on our comprehensive campus tours – from the programs and services we offer to those in need to taking you inside our housing units and facilities. But what you may not know is how HEP got its humble beginning.

Otis C. “Preacher” Green was the pastor of Everybody’s Tabernacle, a non-denominational church still located on HEP’s campus. One of the church’s congregation members got injured at work (at a time before workman’s compensation existed) and was unable to continue providing for his young family, eventually leading them to homelessness. Preacher and his wife Barb offered to let the family live in a house they owned in the neighborhood –  rent-free – until they were able to get back on their feet. Word soon spread in the community: if you were homeless and in need of help, you could go to Everybody’s Tabernacle and ask for Barb and Preacher.

In 1986, due to growing need in the community, HEP was founded as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Our campus has continued to grow and expand in the neighborhood in which we were founded all those years ago. There is a lot of history on our campus, and Barb is still guardian of the stories of the “old HEP days.” From serving meals to the homeless out of her kitchen window before our dining hall was built to working with the school board to ensure children could use homeless shelters as their permanent address to register, Barb has seen it all! But through the many seasons of change that the past three decades have ushered in, one thing remains: the Mission of HEP to continue helping people help themselves.

I have been very fortunate in my career to be able to commit myself to such an outstanding organization as HEP.

My LP Class – which, for the record, was the best class ever – coined the term “Leadering” as a way to describe the activities of someone demonstrating leadership ability or skills. One of the most important things I’ve learned about ‘leadering’ through my professional career is that being in a leadership role doesn’t mean always having all of the answers. Our community is full of established and innovative professionals, entrepreneurs, volunteers, and citizens. I have found it very beneficial to build networks around these people and to learn everything I can from them. Not only have I developed a deeper pool of perspective and insight to pull from, but I’ve ended up with lifelong friendships and professional connections which are simply invaluable!

ASHLEY LOWERY, Class of ’16
President & CEO
Homeless Empowerment Program