By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, Pershing Yoakley & Associates, P.C.
Three easily-voiced but very powerful words – “Live. Love. Hope” – capture the essence and passion that drive Alexa and Paul Sponcia in their everyday lives as well as the mission they have embraced for themselves.
“We want to live in a way that gives others reason to believe the gospel is real,” Alexa says. “We’re both passionately pursuing Jesus.”
As one listens to the duo talk so openly about their faith, you can understand how it has totally permeated their businesses and the philosophy they employ in their dealings with their employees.
Yet, Alexa and Paul become even more animated when they discuss Live.Love.Hope, the not-for-profit organization they have established with a truly inspiring mission: “Creating organized communities of hope around the world.”
Alexa is very candid in discussing how some of her personal struggles in earlier years helped inspire the not-for-profit. You can find her thoughts on her blog here.
“Girls are always comparing, whether they are 13 or 60,” she says. “These girls need to understand we all struggle with these things – live, love and hope.”
It is addressing those struggles through a variety of activities that is the basis of Live.Love.Hope. The organization offers retreats designed to facilitate transformation of the heart, mind, body and soul; classes where they partner with other organizations in helping individuals deal with life-changing events; and conferences that are designed to be a starting point for youth to begin the process of acknowledging, understanding and healing from wounds inflicted on them.
“No one is going to change someone,” Alexa says. “We enter your life wherever you are,” offering help and belief in the future.
Live.Love.Hope also sponsors several specific projects. One is the Youth Entrepreneurs Program, referred to as #YEP. Currently focused on rising juniors and seniors at two of Knoxville’s urban high schools – Fulton and Austin-East, the program is designed to catalyze hope by sparking opportunity. The four-phase program ends with a pitch competition and prize money for the top ideas.
Ironically, #YEP also intersects in some respects with their Hard Knox Pizzeria.
“I’m a believer that food will bring everyone together,” Alexa says. She has recruited chefs and other restaurant owners to “teach them their craft,” as she describes the sessions at Fulton and Austin-East. Several students now see the possibility of owning their own restaurant.
YEP and the School of Hard Knox are completely different projects. Alexa started the latter after being involved at Austin-East and seeing a need.
Other Live.Love.Hope projects include Knox Extreme Sports, which is helping transform the city’s existing skate park into a premier facility to introduce youth to action sports, and Idea Incubation, an initiative to bring to reality communities of hope by following the process that the Apostle Paul did through his missions.
For the Sponcias, it’s taking the lessons they have learned in their lives, both good and bad, coupled with the success they are now having in their businesses, and helping make a difference in the lives of young men and women by giving them hope.