WINTER GARDEN — Pastor Scott Billue says the car-detailing program at Matthew’s Hope is a great deal financially — but it means much more than that to the participants in West Orange County’s homeless ministry. It’s giving them responsibilities and another opportunity to become independent and to break the cycle of homelessness.
“We’re expanding the service to really use as a viable way to check people’s work ethic,” founder Billue said. “We’re able to provide a service to the community at a reasonable price, but it gives our guests a chance to interact with people in the community. It gives them a chance to talk to people and gives them a chance to earn points.”
The point system was created to restore participants’ dignity. The guests, as they are called at Matthew’s Hope, can earn points by working in the garden or the laundry area, detailing vehicles and setting up and taking down tables and chairs for meals and classes. These points can then be cashed in for items like food, steel-toed boots, a bicycle, new teeth or temporary housing.
All vehicle-detailing work is done at Matthew’s Hope, 1460 Daniels Road, Winter Garden. Cars cost $25 for an inside-and-out detail. An additional $15 will get the car hand-waxed with high-quality products. Vans and small trucks are $35 for a detail, $50 for detailing and waxing. Larger trucks can be cleaned, too, and drivers can call for a quote.
Billue recommends calling ahead for an appointment to avoid a longer wait. Call (407) 905-9500 to schedule a time. Guests perform the work from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and currently can handle about six cars a day. There are about five workers who rotate on and off the schedule.
“We have one key guy out there most of the time,” Billue said. “He’s ridiculously picky and detail-oriented. He will get in all the nooks and crannies and make sure the other guys do, too.”
That hard worker is Kerc Hoyt.
“I do it the way I would do my car,” he said. “I take the time to do it right.”
Hoyt also repairs bicycles that are donated, cleans the Matthew’s Hope buildings and keeps the campus grass mowed.
He hasn’t been homeless long, but he found himself struggling financially after he moved out of the house in Ocoee he shared with his abusive girlfriend. He finally mustered the courage to get out, leaving behind everything he owned. He still carries visible proof of their intense relationship: scars from razor and butcher knife attacks and a gunshot wound in his back.
“At least I’m still alive,” he said.
He is continually out job hunting, concentrating on auto repair shops.
“I was a dishwasher but was going nowhere,” he said. “I’m a hell of a mechanic.”
Hoyt currently is living in one of the ministry’s transitional houses on Morgan Street in Winter Garden, working every day for his points.
Billue stressed these workers are not volunteers; they are earning valuable points, and many of them are putting those points toward housing.
“That’s part of the requirement to get a house: to earn points around Matthew’s Hope,” he added.
“We have some of our longer-term guests who oversee it and lead it, and as other guests come in and want to earn points, we train them how to do it, too,” he said.
The job takes 60 to 90 minutes with two guests working on one vehicle, and while their car is getting cleaned, the owners can sit on the porch and chat with guests or take a tour of Matthew’s Hope’s preschool, food pantry, shower trailer and garden.
HOPING FOR $10K
Matthew’s Hope has been selected along with 11 other food charities (from Florida, the United States, Canada and Singapore) to compete for a $10,000 grant. The winner is determined by the number of votes each organization receives between now and Aug. 28. Go to cit.com/foodortunity daily to vote. At the close of the contest, CIT, a financial entity, will award grants of $10,000, $5,000 and $2,500.
Billue said a charity had to receive at least 100 write-in votes to be nominated.
“We had learned about it, and it really fit what we are doing in terms of trying to expand our food pantry,” he said.
If Matthew’s Hope wins the $10,000 grant, the money could be used to expand the food program.
“We have the regular Garden of Eatin’ food pantry, but we’re also keeping boxed food on hand that if somebody comes who is not homeless and doesn’t qualify for the things that we’re doing, but they come in and they’re hungry, we can give them a box with things like pasta, shelf-stable milk, soups and canned meats,” Billue said.
Staff at several local schools know if they learn of a hungry family, they can call Matthew’s Hope, and a box of food will be delivered. Billue wants to expand this program.
Some families are hungry and some are homeless, and while he desires to help those who merely need a little food, his goal is to locate the ones without a home who could fully benefit from Matthew’s Hope.
“We want to connect them with Matthew’s Hope so we can see if we can get them moving toward independence,” Billue said. “Our goal is not to make you comfortable as a homeless person.”
Another project gaining momentum is a proposed greenhouse. Billue has received final approval and is eager to begin construction. It will be built next to the garden and landscaped with a butterfly garden, picket fence and cobblestone sitting area.
“The garden is our front door,” Billue said. “We want people to see it and say, ‘Wow, not only is this beautiful, but it’s also functional.’”
He said he hopes it will be finished by the Nov. 14 Harvest of Hope Garden Party.