Tell Us A little About Yourself:
Most people would consider that I had a pretty traumatic childhood and have personally experienced drug addiction and homelessness from an early age. When I got out of the military, I worked as a Trader and being quickly successful allowed me to expand my addictions to new levels. When the markets crashed, it affected me deeply, and I found myself homeless again. Pulling myself up from zero, I built a successful 20-year career in sales and marketing until I got the Calling to go into Ministry. I enrolled at Reformed Theological Seminary and co-founded ‘NEXT Community Church’ in Winter Garden, where I was for 5 years.
How Did Matthew’s Hope Get Started?
We had been serving the homeless community for a while, and I wanted to get Churches together to address the challenge head-on. Unfortunately, getting separate churches to work together is very challenging. The original concept in late 2009 was a stand-alone Ministry that others could rally around. In January 2010, we had one of the worse freezes in Central Florida, and we asked churches in the area to house our homeless population temporarily. Although most said no, the West Orange Church of Christ agreed, Channel 13 picked up the story of the “Freeze Warning Ministry,” and everything grew so fast. As the temperatures warmed, we just continued to provide services as we could not just walk away from the obvious, ongoing needs of the homeless in our community. I officially founded Matthew’s Hope on March 30th, 2010.
What Are You Seeing Now and How Does Your Outreach To The Homeless Work?
In the last 12 months, we’ve experienced a 300% jump in the number of weekly visits by homeless folks. The needs are growing my terms of volume and service required. Every Tuesday and Thursday, three teams go out into the field. The first delivers personal protection equipment and picks up dirty laundry; the second team provides food, clothing, and hygiene; and the third team is the medical crew that dresses wounds and makes sure medications are available to those who need them. We also provide weekly laundry service, showers, assistance with food stamps, Florida IDs, COVID testing, and more.
We’ve Heard You Can Be Picky About Donated Items, Help Us Understand That:
Let me start by saying that we are always grateful for donations! However, our staff and volunteers spend a lot of time sorting through bags of donations where only about 10-percent is truly usable, and the Salvation Army has to pick up the rest (averaging 50 to 100 bags per week) of items dropped off at our Resource Center that our homeless population can’t use. As examples, we ask for running shoes because they’re breathable and washable; white socks because there’s are no dyes that cause major medical issues for our diabetics; travel-size toiletries because of space, there’s no street value, and we want folks to often return for new supplies and help.
Understanding That, What Should I Donate To Matthew’s Hope?
We post our most critical need items weekly on our Facebook Page (@MatthewsHopeMinistries). We try and make everything we give usable by someone living in the woods, on the streets, in their car, or in a camp. BOGO specials are an effective way to donate grocery items (feed your family with one, feed another family with the other). The key is shelf-stable, pre-cooked items that can be warmed if there’s the ability and no preparation required. Examples are Chef Boyardee pasta with meat, Vienna sausages, soups with meat and vegetables (not broth), small SPAMs, etc. For toiletries, it’s the usual items you would take on a short trip, just travel-sized and single-use. All clothing helps, especially white socks, underwear, jeans/pants (sizes 28, 30, and 32), ponchos, running shoes, steel-toe boots. We also need other items and post weekly on our Facebook page (@MatthewsHopeMinistries) as the needs change quickly.
For information on donating or volunteering, you can visit MatthewsHopeMinistries.org or call (407) 905-9500.