by Paula Robertson
Hope starts here. Enter the doors of St. Matthew’s House, and you immediately recognize you are someplace very special. From the very first person you encounter, you feel the welcoming and kind vibe that courses throughout this exceptional place for healing and hope.
Following a faith-based mission to change lives in an environment that is both compassionate and disciplined, St. Matthew’s House provides comfort, shelter and a hand up to those struggling with homelessness, chronic hunger and addiction. Now in its 32nd year, St. Matthew’s House began in 1987 as an initiative to end hunger after a heartbreaking photograph published in the Naples Daily News showed a homeless man in Naples eating out of a dumpster. The photograph was the catalyst for a Naples Bible study group to spring into action inspired by the Bible’s call to provide comfort to the suffering. The group enlisted a number of area churches to help them prepare and serve meals to the local homeless population, and St. Matthew’s House was formed and incorporated shortly after. Since then, St. Matthew’s House has never missed a day of feeding the hungry.
More than 44,000 people in Collier County are living below the poverty level, and 36,000 are food insecure. St. Matthew’s House is the only facility approved for public feeding and the only emergency homeless shelter in Collier County. Today, St. Matthew’s House provides more than 500,000 meals each year for St. Matthew’s House residents and those who are food insecure, and shelters more than 300 men, women and children every night.
St. Matthew’s House generates revenue for its operations through a unique Social Enterprise Model
that includes five thrift stores, a car wash and detailing center, catering operation and more. “Our social enterprises generate nearly 70 percent of the funds needed for St. Matthew’s House operations so that 100 percent of every donation goes directly to support our life transforming programs and services,” notes St. Matthew’s House President and CEO Vann Ellison.
In October, ground was broken for a greatly needed freestanding 8,000-square-foot commercial kitchen to be located on the St. Matthew’s House main campus at 2001 Airport Road South in Naples. The new facility, to be called Lulu’s Kitchen, is made possible by a major gift from The Holecek
Family Trust. Lulu’s Kitchen will bring under one roof St. Matthew’s House two catering operations, a new culinary training institute, café and 65 seat open to the public restaurant. A summer 2020 completion is anticipated.
Lulu’s Kitchen is one of five major projects included in the St. Matthew’s House Life Transformation Campaign. The campaign is raising funds to provide needed renovations to existing facilities and to add new facilities to expand and enhance the organization’s capacity to provide life-transforming services to those struggling with poverty and individuals seeking recovery from addiction.
More than 527 have graduated from the St. Matthew’s House
Justin’s Place Recovery Program since it began in 2010. Graduates celebrated successfully completing the program
at the 29th graduation ceremony on October 28, 2019.
St. Matthew’s House is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that does not solicit government funding. The public is invited to participate in “patronage with a purpose” by visiting St. Matthew’s House thrift stores, Café M25 and other social enterprises. For additional information on how you can support St. Matthew’s House in fulfilling its mission to help those in need to realize fuller and more productive lives, visit online at www.stmatthewshouse.org or call (239) 774-0500