These are challenging times, but there is a ray Hope.
Hands of Hope America started out in the home of Executive Director Evelisse Bookhout as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) in 2019. Since then, they have grown into two locations. One pantry, located at 9230 U.S. Highway 192, Clermont, is open 3three days a week from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
A second location, at the Four Corners Community Center, 16605 Sunrise Lake Blvd., No. 3, Clermont, is where it provides social services, enrichment programs, ESOL classes, resources for mental health issues and educational training.
It also focus on many youth programs, aimed mostly at ages 10 to 18, including after-school programs, tutoring and mentoring. High School students that need volunteer hours for the Bright Future Scholarship Program are welcomed to volunteer here.
Bookhout said, “We do outreach events. There are a lot of homeless, because of the housing crisis. We feed them and we try to provide any services that they may need and get them connected.”
Volunteers go out to the hotels which have homeless families on 192.
Bookhout said, “Because of the increase in rent, food and inflation, we see families spend $400 a week to stay in the hotels. They cannot get out of this cycle. Our case managers sit down with each individual client.”
When asked how the current crisis compares to 2008, when U.S. 192 hotels first became the last resort for those that were foreclosed on or evicted, Bookhut replied, “It’s worse. Many families are working just to pay the cost of the hotel. They don’t have access to food, child care or transportation. They are stuck in a bind – trying to buy food for the family or gas to go to work. Because of the lack of housing, sometimes we (Hands of Hope America) don’t have any options. We may sometimes have to find campgrounds for families. We try, but, because we are dealing with 4 different counties, it sometimes becomes difficult. There is a great gap here in the Four Corners area. We are the only organization providing social services in the area.”
They nonprofit is servicing more than 1,500 clients with an all-volunteer staff. The goal, according to Bookhout is to eventually have one central location where it would be a one-stop shop. Hands of Hope America accepts food and monetary donations as well as volunteers.
For more information or to make a donation, email [email protected]. They service the following Four Corners zip codes: 34714, 33897, 34747, 34787, 33896, 33837 and 33836.
Evelisse Bookhout, Executive Officer of Hands of Hope America, Inc, was the guest speaker at the Kiwanis Club of South Lake. Evelisse is an Army veteran from Central New York with experience as a nursing assistant, helping other veterans, as well as children and adults with disabilities.
After moving to Central Florida, she noticed a significant lack of social services in the Four Corners area. With a heart to help, she founded Hands of Hope America, Inc., a 501(c)(3) in 2019… right before the start of the Covid pandemic. While certainly an obstacle, the pandemic made these services even more critical, and Evelisse worked even harder to fulfill the programs mission.
The mission of Hands of Hope America is to equip, empower, and restore underserved individuals, families, and communities in need in the Four Corners area of Central Florida. Their Vision is to provide accessible services and resources to restore self-sufficiency and dignity to all people.
Hands of Hope America provides resources and services to address the growing issues of food insecurity, poverty, educational literacy, homelessness, and unemployment. They have two locations: their Food Pantry and Resource Center is located on Hwy 192 in Clermont, and provides emergency food assistance. The Community Center, located on Sunrise Lake Blvd in Clermont, provides case management, assistance with employment, educational opportunities, technology training, medical referrals, youth mentorship, and other social service needs.
During the summer, they are offering an 8-week summer camp with fun activities, field trips, enrichment courses and more. They are also offering a summer feeding program of grab-and-go summer meals to keep kids full while the schools are closed.
Visit handsofhopeamerica.org to learn about volunteer opportunities, to make a donation, or to learn more about their programs.