Matthew's Hope prepped for busy holiday season

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— The homeless ministry is preparing for this weekend's garden party fundraiser, as well as a preschool playground build day, Thanksgiving meal, Christmas carnival and new greenhouse.

WINTER GARDEN — The holidays are coming, but that doesn’t always mean much when you’re homeless. There are plenty of opportunities for celebration, however, for the guests of Matthew’s Hope, a homeless ministry in West Orange County. Program founder Scott Billue has many plans for the last month-and-a-half of the year, and the community can get involved in all of them.

A garden party

Tickets are still available for Saturday’s Harvest of Hope Garden Party, taking place outside near the homeless ministry’s garden. Single tickets are $75 and include the meal and beverage. Tables for 10 are $500, and those seated there can provide their own potluck meal or use one of three caterers.

A representative from The Chef’s Table restaurant will prepare and serve hors d’oeuvres using produce directly from the garden. Sandy Shugart — singer, songwriter, accomplished musician and president of Valencia College — will provide entertainment.

For tickets, call (407) 905-9500 or go to the website,

Matthew’s Hope is at 1460 Daniels Road, Winter Garden.

Giving thanks

The community can get in a little exercise before sitting down to a table full of food in the Thanksgiving Gobble Wobble. The event, hosted by Tri & Run of West Orange, begins at 8 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 27, in downtown Winter Garden. The cost is $15, and all proceeds will go to Matthew’s Hope. Event T-shirts are available to the first 300 participants. For more information, visit

Homeless families and individuals will sit down to a Thanksgiving meal, thanks to Daryl Baer of BurgerFi. He was previously manager of LongHorn Steakhouse, in Winter Garden, which provided a dinner for several years, and he continues the tradition with some of his former employees.

Creating play space

Billue’s dream of providing a preschool for the children of his homeless clients is closer to reality now that the project has gone to permitting in Winter Garden.

“We’re watching a general being disabled by their environment, and we hope we can change families through these children when they take home what they learned,” Billue said.

The Firm Foundation Preschool will have its own playground, thanks to the generosity of Kiwanis International, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary next year by building playgrounds all over the country.

“It’s a huge blessing the way this worked out,” Billue said. “We are creating a learning environment in a play environment.”

A Playground Build Day is planned for Saturday, Dec. 6, when 32,000 pounds of equipment and materials are delivered and will be put together in one day.

Billue is asking for the community’s help in providing drinks, snacks and lunch for the builders.



More than 25 old-fashioned game booths will be set up for the Christmas Carnival on Saturday, Dec. 13. From 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., homeless families can play games; and enjoy hot dogs, hamburgers, pulled pork, ice cream and more.

A winter wonderland will be set up so children can visit with Santa Claus. They can also try out the new playground. Members of Winter Garden’s police and fire departments will be in attendance, too.

Churches and businesses have signed up to host the booths with a holiday twist. Space is still available; call (407) 905-9500. Billue is still looking for a balloon artist.

Herbs are coming

The Harvest of Hope Garden was established in 2010 on land donated to Matthew’s Hope. This chemical-free garden has been expanded several times, providing consistent, meaningful work for many of the homeless guests.

The American Legion has donated $2,000 toward the purchase of a greenhouse to further expand the garden’s offerings. Bi-Lo/Winn-Dixie is expected to make a donation this week, as well, toward the greenhouse project.

The money will be spent on a kit that yields a 24- by 18-foot greenhouse for growing herbs and seedlings. Billue also is looking for volunteers.

“So many of our homeless are finding jobs that we need help in the garden,” he said. “It’s a good problem to have. It means our program is working.”

Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].


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