CLERMONT – Pastors Michael and Christine Hopewell would seem to be appropriately named as they have been providing a well of hope — both figuratively and literally — for years to those in need.
Since 2008, the couple has been reaching out to families in the Four Corners area in many ways, including the house of worship they lead, New Water Interdenominational Church in Davenport.
Currently, the list of endeavors is extensive — from the Well of Hope Thrift Shop and Food Bank to food drops for 350 people to vocational training to helping the homeless.
Before moving to Clermont, the couple felt called by the Lord to start a homeless ministry on the streets of Tampa.
“God put it on our hearts to help people back then, and we will continue to do so until the Lord says differently,” Michael said.
Currently, the couple provides to those who need help what they call the Tree Ministry: T is for Training, R is for Restoration, E is for Education, and the other E is for Equipping.
“We try to provide as many parts of the Tree Ministry as we can when we help them. For example, we will help them with food plus get signed up for Medicaid, food stamps,” Michael said. “And then we try to educate them on how to do those things too.”
The Well of Hope Thrift Shop is located at 16605 Sunrise Lakes Boulevard in Clermont, just a bit north of the intersection of U.S. 192 and U.S. 27, and is a great source for different reasons – clothes for job interviews.
“We want to help them dress for success by providing the clothes,” Michael said. “Plus, we want to help prepare them for the actual interviews.”
The couple aren’t ones to be satisfied with what they are doing to help others. They are continuously searching for more ways to assist and, for example, they just expanded the food donation area in their facility.
“We want to help everyone – it doesn’t matter what city you are from,” he said. “We have people come from as far away as Lake Wales, Kissimmee … everywhere.”
They do not require any documentation or any type of paperwork to receive assistance.
“We don’t turn anyone away,” Michael said. “We are going to help these families.”
Michael said he knows what it is like to need help as he was an alcoholic and drug addict for years. It was so bad, he said, that his wife took their children and left him. But he says the Lord restored what had been taken from him.
“God changed my life,” he said. “He gave me my family back.”
Michael said that during a two-year mission trip to Africa, his wife and daughter rented the current location of Well of Hope.
“Twelve years ago, they started the thrift store by taking everything out of our house to sell in the shop,” he laughed.
And, although they receive annual grants and donations from corporations like Publix and Walmart, homeowner’s associations, and other businesses, it is still sometimes hard to help as many as they’d like. They also partner with South Lake Food Providers and Orlando Second Harvest, and those partnerships bring about 40,000 pounds of food a month. With that, they set up the food drop in the parking lot of the church.
The food drop feeds approximately 350 families monthly, but their goal is to double that by the end of the year.
Not only does the Well of Hope Thrift Store provide clothing for the needy, but it also generates money that is used to help in other areas.
“We need good quality clothing, but every donation that comes through the door has a place,” Michael said.
The store prices the items to sell at $2.88 for one piece of adult clothing to .22 cents for children’s items. The Well of Hope Thrift Store is also in need of quality furniture, as staff likes to keep a good selection for patrons.
“We have so much we want to do but we need help from the community,” he said.
Donations of quality clothing, furniture, and other appropriate items may be dropped off to the Well of Hope Food Bank and Thrift Shop, located at 16605 Sunrise Lakes Boulevard in Clermont.