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Thursday, Sep 21, 2017
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CEO: Helping homeless is 'the right thing to do'

NEW PORT RICHEY - Scott Fink, president and CEO of Hyundai of New Port Richey, has always believed that if a business is successful, it owes something to the community for its support. Several years ago, the dealership set up an account. Every time Hyundai of New Port Richey sells a vehicle, $10 is deposited into that account, to be distributed among local charities, other organizations and projects. Being the highest volume dealership on the Suncoast and 2011's fourth-largest dealer in the nation of any brand has added up to quite a bit of good corporate karma and a considerable amount of money. "We do business here," Fink said. "We wouldn't be as successful without the consumers here, and we recognize that. Stripping all that away, for me and my family, it's the right thing to do."
Fink and his wife, Kathleen, donated $100,000 of their own money to Metropolitan Ministries to help homeless families in Pasco County. "It's from my wife and I; it's not from the company," he said. "We want to do what we can to help the community." Fink said he and Kathleen were motivated by a piece they saw on "60 Minutes" about the recession and a Florida family forced to live out of a truck. As parents of five children, the couple was touched. "You look at these kids, living in a truck, brushing their teeth at service station washrooms," Fink said. "We both kind of looked at each other and said, 'We really need to do something.'" His first inclination was to start a foundation, but after weighing the pros and cons with an attorney, decided to see what existing organizations they could help. Metropolitan Ministries is a faith-based nonprofit group that has assisted poor and homeless families for 40 years. Based in Tampa, the organization provides health care, education and leadership training. About 95 percent of its $15 million operating budget comes from community donations. The organization has had its work cut out for it; the Tampa area has the highest homeless rate in the nation. Metropolitan ministries estimates there are more than 17,000 homeless people on the Suncoast, about one-third are children. Pasco County has the second largest homeless population in Florida, with nearly 4,500 on any given day. For the past few years, Metropolitan Ministries has had an outreach center at 3214 U.S. 19, Holiday. When the Finks approached Tim Marks, president of Metropolitan Ministries, it was an opportunity to revive a vision for the location. "There was a plan on the books for transitional housing for the homeless," Marks said. It would duplicate the Miracle Place housing project at the Tampa location. The plan called for a 20-unit transitional housing facility for families. It also would duplicate the Tampa facility's successful Inside the Box Café, an onsite restaurant operated by residents and open to the public. The café provides residents with income and job training. The plan had been collecting dust for two years, Marks said, as organizers waited for a break in the economy. The Finks' $100,000 donation alone is not enough to build the project, but is a big start and has drawn attention. "What a project like this needs is enough continued support," Marks said. The Finks know their donation will only put a dent in Pasco's homelessness problem, but every bit helps. The average stay at Miracle Place in Tampa is six months. When a family gets back on its feet, Fink said, the parents are employed and they are shopping, actively helping to stoke the local economy. "Eventually, they're even going to need a new car," he said "It's all connected." That's the point, he said. We're all waiting for things to improve. It's important to remember, when you help anyone, it's a step toward helping everyone, he said.

klowry@suncoastnews.com (727) 815-1067
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