Matthew's Hope will continue giving a hand up to the homeless men, women and families of West Orange County at a new site after a local resident and businessman stepped up and offered to sell his building and land to the nonprofit for less than the asking price.
This week, Matthew's Hope founder and chairman Scott Billue is closing on the sale with Willie Fulmore, owner of the former Willie's Bar-B-Q, which once operated at 740 Ninth St. in Winter Garden. The negotiated purchase price was $155,000 for the building and the grounds, less than the original $199,000 price tag.
Fulmore said he reached out to Billue after reading an article in the West Orange Times & Observer outlining the ministry’s need to move to another location.
“It seemed like they really had a bad dilemma,” Fulmore said. “I wanted to do what I could for them.”
The former restaurateur, who said he has always had a heart for the homeless, now serves meals at the Coalition for the Homeless and preaches monthly at its men’s shelter.
He lowered the price because, he said, “It was a good cause, and I see that as a way of giving back. The Scripture in the Bible Proverbs 19:17) says, ‘Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward them for what they have done.’”
The 2,000-square-foot building, constructed in 1956, will house the Firm Foundation Preschool and the ministry’s Tuesday services, which includes a hot lunch; the ability to search for a job; and access to a washer and dryer, shower, food pantry and medical services.
But it has to be renovated first.
Billue said Lowe’s Home Improvement is partnering with Matthew’s Hope for this project. Both sides of the building will be stripped to the framework, and a new ceiling and additional electric outlets will be installed. The preschool rooms on the south side will get an air-conditioner, windows, a new bathroom, new fixtures and an additional exterior door.
The back porch where Fulmore once smoked the meats will be turned into a Florida-room-like setting so guests can wait there for the services.
Renovations are expected to take four to six weeks. Meanwhile, the ministry is looking for a temporary space for the 18 preschoolers who return to school next month.
These renovations will cost money. Billue estimates it will cost $25,000 to relocate Matthew’s Hope, between the down payment and the expense of setting up the program.
He said a private foundation is financing most of the purchasing cost; Fulmore will finance $30,000.
Bruce Knox of Knox Nursery is offering $5,000 in matching funds, as is another local business that wants to remain anonymous.
“Both of them saw that the reason it’s so attractive to be in this community is that … you don't see people hanging around with signs panhandling,” Billue said. “So they feel like, this benefits the homeless from our community but also it improves our community from a value perspective.”
This building is in the perfect location, Billue said. There is a Lynx bus stop just outside the front door, and guests will be able to take public transportation to this location and to Matthew’s Hope’s other site.
The second location, at 523 and 529 S. Woodland St., now serves as the administrative offices, the food pantry and storage for clothing and necessities.
“Once guests put in their order for food, hygiene products, clothing, bicycles or whatever they need, it prints the order at the Woodland site and someone drives it all over,” Billue said. “Matthew’s Hope works well because of its close proximity.”
The ministry’s garden, however, might be a little farther away. The city of Winter Garden has offered the use of some land south of West Colonial Drive. It is undevelopable property but is suited for a garden.
BETTER THAN BEFORE
“We've just risen from the ashes, and we're going to be better and stronger than we were before,” Billue said. “Our staff is 10 times better than it was before. … There were things that needed to change that I wouldn't have changed but for going through this.”
Matthew's Hope now has a registered nurse, Nancy Pfaff, on staff.
“We can literally say we've seen lives saved,” Billue said. “Our R.N. is able to talk medically to people at Florida Hospital, which has truly done everything they could to be a community partner with us and help these people. We've taken our medical ability to a whole new level.”
Future plans include a medical and dental facility in West Orange County.
“I'm a builder by heart,” Billue said. “I don't build anything, but I like creating things and improving them and making them better. … We're calling it Matthew's Hope 2.0 and taking everything we've learned in the last six-and-a-half years and saying, ‘How do we improve things, make them more efficient, offer more services?’”
To make a donation to Matthew’s Hope, go to gofundme.com/2dy6qa4. Two matching funds totaling $10,000 have been offered, so donors’ money will go even further.
A temporary space is also needed to hold about 75 adults each Tuesday for meals and classes until the new building is renovated. Call (407) 905-9500.
Contact Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].