Harvesting Hope at the Harvest of Hope Garden Party

photo of a man who is experiencing homelessness

Matthew’s Hope, a nonprofit that supports men, women, and children who are experiencing homelessness become independent, is getting ready to celebrate its annual Harvest of Hope Garden Party on Nov. 12.

This annual fundraiser for Matthew’s Hope has become something of a defining creative event for West Orange County. Friends, local businesses as well as large corporations purchase tables and pick a theme for their invitees/employees to dress up as. You can purchase a table for eight for $600 (no meal) or just $1,000 which includes a catered meal. 

In years past, there have been group costumes such as the characters from the board game Clue, the book Alice and Wonderland, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as well as Disney movies. Originally held in the ministry’s vegetable garden, this year the event will be held at Ocoee Lakeshore Center due to the massive growth of the party as well as the loss of its garden space. 

Being a Guest

Matthew’s Hope Founder, CEO and President Scott Billue is an ordained minister and a self-described “big guy with a big heart.” He says the Harvest of Hope Garden Party, which has been a mainstay for the organization since it began 12 years ago, may not be in a garden anymore but that doesn’t mean the group of volunteers and staff as well as the event’s presenting sponsor AdventHealth can’t still harvest hope for their “guests.” 

At Matthew’s Hope those seeking support are given the more dignified name of guest, rather than client, homeless, or person in need. Billue says another way the organization is a little different from other nonprofits addressing homelessness is that Matthew’s Hope focuses on the causes, not just the symptoms of homelessness, with the goal of moving people towards a life of independence and self-sustainability. 

Doing the Work

Having experienced being unhoused himself as a child and a young adult, Billue says that sometimes well-meaning nonprofits, churches, and government agencies may enable those experiencing homelessness and prevent them from becoming independent.  He started Matthew’s Hope to help guests grow emotionally, mentally, spiritually, physically, and vocationally. He says although mental illness and substance or alcohol addiction may be a factor for some guests, the goal is for them, irrespective of ability, to grow cognitively and demonstratively; and that might look different from one guest to the next. “We’ll meet them where they are, but they have to do some work. Their participation in helping themselves is key,” Billue says.

According to Billue, some of Matthew’s Hope guests don’t consider themselves homeless. “They may be what I call ‘structurally challenged.’ They may have a place they call home, but it’s not what we traditionally think of as a building with four walls and a roof.”

Growing in Brevard

The organization currently assists approximately over 1,300 people in West Orange County. Earlier this year it also started providing support to about 200 people in Brevard County. Billue says the Brevard County campus which is still being developed presently consists of nearly six acres of land and 35,000 square feet of building space which includes a small chapel, sanctuary, fellowship hall and dozens of classrooms previously owned by a Methodist church. 

“Unfortunately, with the pandemic and the rising cost of rent, along with the increased costs of just about everything, we’ve seen the need for the support Matthew’s Hope can offer grow exponentially. “We’re looking forward to the day when we are needed less. But that isn’t today,” Billue says. 

Get Involved: Purchase a table for the Harvesting Hope Garden Party at www.matthewshopministries.org/garden-party or donate at www.mattheshopeministries.org and click which location you’d like to donate to. 


What do you think?

385 points
Upvote Downvote

Written by Tarre Beach

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *