Matt Scoggins promised Port St. Joe commissioners more than a year ago that he would provide yearly updates on the progress of the Gulf Coast Hope Center.
And, as Port St. Joe Mayor Mel Magidson noted, Scoggins continued to be true to his word.
Scoggins and Rev. Joe Atkinson, the director of the Gulf Coast Hope Center, appeared before commissioners last week to map out the progress of the past year to 14 months since the Hope Center, to considerable controversy regarding location and services, first opened.
Scoggins and Atkinson noted that true to pledges provided to commissioners when the Commission was considering a permit for the Hope Center there was no shelter housing individuals overnight and no kitchen providing meals at the Hope Center.
Instead, Atkinson noted, the Hope Center had performed as promised, seeing people in need, helping them where possible and referring those individuals to appropriate agencies.
“We have been able to come out and provide services to the needy in the community,” Atkinson said. “We have been true to our word. We did not set up a shelter; we do not feed people.”
Instead, Atkinson said, there was assistance in providing furniture to a women forced from her home by domestic violence. Center staff had been able to help a veteran living in the woods get the mental and physical health assistance he needed and he was now in housing.
There was a refrigerator an elderly couple on a fixed income and assistance with utility bills for needy.
“We are very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish,” Atkinson said.
Transients come through the area, Scoggins said, but they are helped on their way to an appropriate agency in Panama City or Tallahassee.
And, Scoggins said, there are still plenty of folks who come to his Five Star Auto Collision shop in need of help with utility bills, gas bills or money for groceries.
As of Jan. 23, the Hope Center had seen 113 clients, served 54, referred another 31 out for additional assistance and due to a lack of funding were unable to assist 28 people.
The services provided thus far equal $21,081.26 in value, included $7,254 provided directly through the Hope Center.
The average value of services provided by the Hope Center, per client, was $134.33, and the average value of services per client referred out by the Hope Center was $446.04.
Scoggins said he is currently expanding his Five Star business and the result will be additional space for the Hope Center, including a storage area Scoggins would like to keep stocked with items such as furniture and appliances in the event of, say, a fire which burns a family from their home.
“We want to have enough on hand to help people in our community,” Scoggins said.
He emphasized that despite its controversial beginnings, the Gulf Coast Hope Center had been an extension of his ministry which had avoided the many pitfalls critics were concerned about given its affiliation with the Panama City Rescue Mission.
“You gave me your word and you kept your word,” Magidson said. “That’s a big deal these days. The city appreciates what you have been doing.”