HOLECEK FAMILY FOUNDATION
St. Matthew’s House began in 1987 when a group of Naples parishioners followed a calling to bring food to the homeless population living in a nearby area. This small group enlisted the support of six other churches and a synagogue to form an independent nonprofit organization that they named St. Matthew’s House. In the 20+ years from its inception until 2010, it grew very slowly into a modest Naples-based soup kitchen and homeless shelter with a budget of $1.5 Million, a staff of 40, and a volunteer base of 1,000 wonderful people. It was doing the very best that it could with very limited resources and donations, but it needed financial help!
And, that help came in 2010 when the Holecek Family Foundation, whose motto and mission is “Doing good things for good people in need,” partnered with St. Matthew’s House. With great determination and generosity, the Holecek Family Foundation partnered with St. Matthew’s House to do a lot of very good things for many good people that were in desperate need of the “Touching Hearts & Transforming Lives” mission of St. Matthew’s House.
Over the course of the decade-long partnership, St. Matthew’s House experienced unprecedented and unparalleled growth—expanding their feeding ministry, addiction recovery programs, and establishing new social enterprise initiatives—all of which returned sustainable revenue to the mission and provided job training for Justin’s Place participants. St. Matthew’s House is now one of the foremost direct social services agencies in Southwest Florida with properties and activities throughout Collier, Lee, Hendry, and Glades Counties. In just 10 years it has capably and solidly grown into a dynamic organization of 250 paid staff and administration, 6,000 tireless and loyal volunteers, and an annual budget of $19 Million.
The Holecek Family Foundation’s partnership with St. Matthew’s House highlights how important all three “T’s” of giving—Time, Talent, and Treasure—are to local nonprofit organizations. Incredible amounts of Time and Talent are given to the mission by the dedicated staff, board of directors, and many volunteers that provide the direction, leadership, and energy to make St. Matthew’s House execute its mission so successfully. The Treasure is given by the many generous donors that provide the necessary fuel to expand services in order to keep up with the surging needs of this growing community—all without applying for government funding.
It is through their charitable support, especially, that The Holecek Family Foundation has left its mark: The Foundation is, by far, the largest donor in the history of St. Matthew’s House.
Please enjoy the following timeline which highlights the major donation events of the past 10 years in the strategic partnership between St. Matthew’s House and The Holecek Family Foundation.
St. Matthew’s House owned an old firehouse located at 2691 Airport Road that they renovated to serve as the organization’s soup kitchen and to house a handful of shelter residents who were suffering from addiction. In June they launched a 12-bed Men’s Recovery Program to better serve these residents by adding structure and counseling support which was desperately needed. This was the beginning of a new rehabilitation program.
Bruce and Jeri Holecek, two directors of The Holecek Family Foundation, visited and toured the St. Matthew’s homeless shelter facility and the converted firehouse. They had recently lost their only child, Justin Holecek, to the deadly disease of alcoholism and were looking for solace and purpose to do something good in Justin’s memory and honor. They met with CEO, Vann Ellison, and his wife, Lisa, and were inspired by the incredible work the organization was doing on a shoestring budget. The Holeceks immediately felt the warmth and sincerity of the St. Matthew’s House mission, and they wanted to become a part of it, which they knew would honor and remember Justin.
Bruce and Jeri Holecek released a statement after the recovery program was renamed in honor and memory of their son, Justin:
“It is our honor to take part in renaming the St. Matthew’s House Recovery Center to ‘Justin’s Place’ in memory of our son, Justin Holecek. Justin graduated from St. John Neumann High School in 1997, and from the University of Florida in 2002. Our son was a good looking, intelligent young man with a wonderful personality, but suffered from the disease of alcoholism. After years of abuse, Justin died on September 18, 2009, at the age of 30. It is our prayer that Justin’s Place will provide recovery in a structured, spiritual manner to people who reach out with a strong desire for a new beginning and a life free of addiction.”
The Holecek Family Foundation began its partnership with St. Matthew’s House by paying off the mortgage on the firehouse soup kitchen facility and provided an additional donation for working capital to transform it and rename it “Justin’s Place” in the memory and honor of Justin Holecek.
Watch a video about Justin’s Place Feeding Ministry here!
The Holecek Family Foundation funds the first full year of operational costs for Justin’s Place.
The Holecek Family Foundation recognized the growth potential for St. Matthew’s House and the need for additional space and facilities. The perfect facility was the 10 acre DeVoe Pontiac/GMC mega-store car dealership on 2601 Airport Road that was uniquely located directly adjacent to the Naples Homeless Shelter. The Holecek Family Foundation was able to acquire the North 3 acres which was an open parking lot that could be developed into contiguous facilities for St. Matthew’s House future growth. This is ultimately where LuLu’s Kitchen would be built in 2020.
Thanks to sustained operations support from the Holecek Family Foundation, Justin’s Place expands to begin serving women.
The Holecek Family Foundation purchased the remaining 7 acres of the 10 acre DeVoe Pontiac/GMC dealership, which included the beautiful buildings and furnishings.
The magnificent first floor showroom became the most profitable thrift store in America. The DeVoe executive offices became the consolidated and greatly enlarged administration offices for St. Matthew’s House and the large rear service bays became the receiving, storage, and distribution hub for the St. Matthew’s House Thrift Stores network (now 6 stores). This was an incredible and game-changing acquisition for St. Matthew’s House! The new 10-acre headquarters was very appropriately named “The Justin Holecek Center Of Hope”!
In addition to specific acquisitions of properties for St. Matthew’s House, The Holecek Family Foundation continues to provide support and funding for operational expenses of activities such as Justin’s Place, the new administration complex, graduations, and other functions that need ongoing financial help.
Holecek Family Foundation funds the purchase of the Port LaBelle Inn & Conference Center in LaBelle, Florida in order to provide up to 90 more beds for Justin’s Place program participants. The Inn continues to operate as a full-service hotel and conference center, thereby adding to the St. Matthew’s House portfolio of social enterprises that provide sustainable revenue to the mission.
See a video about Justin’s Place in LaBelle here!
The Holecek Family Foundation acquired a 37-acre tract of land adjacent to the Port LaBelle Inn & Conference Center to allow Justin’s Place program participants to cultivate the land, grow Macadamia nuts, learn landscaping skills, and provide another source of revenue and activity for the mission.
The Holecek Family Foundation donates funding for St. Matthew’s House to acquire a closed Post Office in Fort Myers and turn it into The Miracle Mile Thrift Store, which is located in a prime location. It was immediately successful and inspired the organization leadership to open a second Thrift Store in Fort Myers in 2020.
In addition to ongoing operational support, the Holecek Family Foundation establishes the Justin Holecek Award to honor the Justin’s Place graduate who had the most inspirational transformation during the program. The winner is chosen by his/her peers.
The Holecek Family Foundation acquired the South Naples Professional Center at 4330 Tamiami Trail East which was a multi-use medical service center. St. Matthew’s House now uses this facility to expand its administrative and operational capacity and functions. This beautiful 21,536 sq. ft. two-story building has been renamed the Holecek Community Services Center and it is used as an administrative office for the St. Matthew’s House accounting, human capital, and volunteer engagement teams.
The Holecek Family Foundation bought The Breeze of Calusa, a 5-acre gated community located on Calusa Avenue just one short block away from St. Matthew’s House headquarters. Under construction at the time of purchase, it had 5 brand new unoccupied completed homes and an additional 17 vacant lots for future homes or development. It was renamed “Justin’s Village” and given to St. Matthew’s House to be an honors community for distinguished graduates and staff of the Justin’s Place program.
In the past year two new homes have been built on the 17 vacant lots thanks to generous donors that have sponsored the construction of a new home. Sponsors of all new homes receive naming rights in exchange for their donation so they can personalize and/or memorialize “their” house as they choose to do.
Please contact Peter Johnson, Vice President of Development, if you want more information on sponsoring a home in Justin’s Village.
Breeze Court was renamed “Justin’s Way” and 16 Justin’s Place graduates moved into completed homes in Justin’s Village. At the request of The Holecek Family Foundation, the St. Matthew’s House board of directors agreed to provide for Vann Ellison, President & CEO of St. Matthew’s House, to move his family into one of the homes on Justin’s Way in Justin’s Village.
St. Matthew’s House hosts a groundbreaking ceremony for Lulu’s Kitchen, a significant and long-awaited gift from the Holecek Family Foundation. Located at the North 3 acres of the 10 acre St. Matthew’s House Headquarters complex directly adjacent to the original Naples homeless shelter (now named Campbell Lodge), this 8,000 sq. ft. state of the art kitchen complex will dramatically increase and consolidate under one roof all of the culinary food-related missions of St. Matthew’s House. Feeding the poor is a core mission of St. Matthew’s House, and Lulu’s Kitchen will be there to do it very professionally.
Lulu’s Kitchen, open for business now, features The Fresh Start Café, a full service 65-seat restaurant, which is open to the general public for breakfast and lunch. Staffed by Justin’s Place participants and graduates, the large state-of-the-art commercial kitchen will serve as a teaching kitchen for culinary students and a new home for St. Matthew’s House award-winning catering company, Delicious by Design. The facility will also be used to handle food preparation for the soup kitchens, host Chef Dinners and cooking classes, and more.