From the outset Matt Scoggins saw the Gulf Coast Hope Center as an extension of his ministry.
Even as the center’s link to the Panama City Rescue Mission embroiled the effort in controversy concerning long-ranges, as the county and city approved ordinances to limit services, Scoggins said repeatedly he was just seeking to expand the work he had done since his life hit the skids.
Since he ran with the wrong people, dabbled in the wrong substances, found the wrong side of jail door bars and discovered, as a single dad, the hardships of homelessness, Scoggins had extended a hand to those in need.
Taking from his pockets, deriving from his success enough to help sustain, bolster, the lives of others.
And nearly two years after its November 2011 formal opening, the Gulf Coast Hope Center, located in a front building on Scoggins’ Five Star Auto business, is thriving.
“We help somebody on an average of every single day,” Scoggins said.
Whether it is with an electric bill, a water bill or rent, a prescription or a meal, the Gulf Coast Hope Center offers a hand. After filling out a brief form, providing some contact information, the center and its staff tries to assist.
The Rev. Joe Atkinson comes over from the Rescue Mission at least every Monday, more if needed, and the building has expanded from an office to include storage and other uses.
“We did that because we were having more and more requests, whether for food or clothing or utility bills,” Scoggins said.
Scoggins has also made several arrangements with local vendors, Billy Dixson Taxi Service and Duren’s Piggly Wiggly to provide transportation and food vouchers for the needy.
He also kept his word on what the Hope Center would not be, Scoggins said.
He may take from his pocket to provide a meal for someone in need, but there are no meals cooked or served at the Hope Center.
Further, there is no dormitory or bedding for people to crash in Gulf County for the night.
In fact, Scoggins said his arrangement with Dixson allows him to provide transportation as far as Panacea or Tallahassee.
“They are not sleeping under the bridge,” Scoggins said of transients. “They are more transients – homeless people aren’t traveling to reach Port St. Joe. But we are providing them an opportunity to move on.”
He said his relationship with local law enforcement is stronger and that law enforcement contacts him regularly, regardless of time of night, when encountering those in need of a little hope.
“I would say that 90 percent of the people who were against this are for us now,” Scoggins said. “They have seen what we have done.”
The latest outreach effort came in the past two weeks when the Gulf Coast Hope Center joined with the Rescue Mission on the annual Klothes for Kids campaign.
Consider it a Klothes for Kids of Gulf County.
Scoggins not only received boxes upon boxes of clothes from local residents, he also received shelves of food. All of it went to local families and children.
“We helped 56 families and provided 140 kids with shoes and clothes for school,” Scoggins said. “This is a community that helps.”
Those seeking assistance on clothes for children should call 229-7827 for an appointment.
“This has been a real extension of my ministry, it has been phenomenal,” Scoggins said. “I feel humbled to be able to help others.”