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Equip - Empower - Restore

Hands of Hope America is proud to be part of Central Florida’s Four Corners community, serving Lake, Polk, Osceola, and Orange counties. We are a tax-exempt non-profit organization, under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.

Here are some answers to Frequently Asked Questions we often get.


Evelisse Bookhout headshot - Hands of Hope AmericaEvelisse is a veteran, leader, an ordained minister, and advocate in her community. Evelisse has a BSW from Southeastern University with a certificate in Child Welfare, and her MSW in Clinical Social Work. Evelisse discovered her passion for empowering the next generation while working as a residential counselor for the developmentally disabled at Springbrook in Oneonta, New York. Evelisse’s passion for Human Services continued to grow as she worked as a nursing assistant with disabled veterans and the elderly population. Evelisse moved to Florida in 2012, where she got involved in mentoring at-risk youth in her community and church youth groups. Currently, Evelisse sits on the Board of Lake County Children’s Services Council and is the Executive Director of Hands of Hope America; a nonprofit organization that provides services and resources to equip families, empower youth, and advocate to restore underserved communities.


Maritza Garcia
I am Maritza Garcia, mother of three children, and one of the Board of Directors of Hands of Hope AmericaI Inc. I was born in Puerto Rico; My family moved to NYC when I was four years old. I attended NYC Technical College, where I studied accounting/Business Administration where I earned a 2-year degree. I retired as a Correction Officer after 20 years in one of the worst prison systems in NYC, Rikers Island. During my twenty years as a Correction Officer, I worked with inmates in different capacities, courts, lawyers, judges, and different law enforcement agencies.

One of my assignments was working with the Institute of Inner Development program for inmates. Such programs involved emotional support counseling for past traumas that led them to incarceration, self-empowerment, and coping skills. In essence, inmates received rehabilitation strategies to become productive members of society.

Bolivar Tellado
My name is Bolivar Tellado Jr., I’m originally from New York City and have been living in and involved in the community of Four Corners, FL for about 10 years now. As a Realtor and a local small business owner, I tend to take the hands on approach in our community. Being a veteran of the US Air Force, I bring those qualities of Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do into our vision here at Hands of Hope America. As an adolescent, I was caught up with being respected and known rather than walking towards the right path faithfully and righteously. This caused me to have run ins with law enforcement, hang with the wrong crowds, become involved with street activity and was almost paralyzed from the waist down from a gunshot wound as a teenager. Through faith and my service in the US Air Force I was able to turn my life around and am now able to give back to communities where I once may have seen myself struggling to be accepted in.

We, here at Hands of Hope America, strive to be a guidepost for all of those affected by struggles and hard times and offer a helping hand while lifting each other up positively as a community. Throughout the years of my life, I’ve witnessed both the pitfalls of adversity and the resilience of hope. You are not alone!

Help us in building up our community and join us in celebrating and spreading life, hope and happiness amongst one another.

Tina Sweeten

Hands of Hope America - Tina Sweeten

Tina Sweeten is a nonprofit professional with over 30 years of experience leading both small and large nonprofit organizations. She holds a Master of Arts in Nonprofit Management and is a Certified Volunteer Administrator. Tina has been a Red Cross employee for the past four and a half years and has volunteered for Red Cross prior to that for over 20 years in a variety of disaster and training services positions. Tina is a compassionate leader who embodies the values of the Red Cross and is currently the Executive Director of the Mid-Florida Chapter in the Central Florida and US Virgin Islands Region.

Eligibility, Verification and Recertification Policy Updates

Starting from August 1, 2023, we will be implementing new policies to enhance the effectiveness of our program and minimize duplication of services. Our primary goal is to maximize food distribution to individuals and families who have not yet been identified but are in dire need of emergency food assistance.

Over the years, Hands of Hope America has been dedicated to serving our community and providing food security to those who need it most. However, we have noticed some inefficiencies in our current system that hinder our ability to reach everyone who requires assistance. In order to address this issue and make a greater impact, we have decided to implement the following policies:

Enhanced Eligibility Criteria: We will be reviewing and updating our eligibility criteria to ensure that individuals and families facing the most significant food insecurity receive priority assistance. This will help us allocate our resources more efficiently and target those in urgent need.

Information Verification: To prevent duplication of services, we will be implementing stringent measures to verify the information provided during the registration process. This may involve requesting additional documentation to validate the accuracy of the details provided.

Regular Recertification: Clients currently receiving emergency food assistance will be required to undergo periodic recertification to ensure that they still meet the eligibility criteria. This will enable us to redirect resources to individuals and families who might have recently fallen into unforeseen hardships.

We understand that these changes may raise questions or concerns, and we are committed to addressing them with utmost transparency. Our dedicated staff will be available to guide you through the updated processes, provide support, and answer any queries you may have.

At Hands of Hope America, our mission has always been to alleviate hunger and provide hope to those facing difficult circumstances. By implementing these policies, we are confident that we can make a more significant impact and reach more individuals and families in need.

We sincerely appreciate your understanding and cooperation as we navigate these changes together. Together, we can work towards a future where no one in our community goes hungry.

If you have any questions or require further information, please do not hesitate to reach out to our team at We value your continued support and trust in Hands of Hope America.

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