In the words of Ted Corcoran, the President of the Chamber there are two parts to the Chamber. One is businesses working to promote themselves as individuals and the other is the gathering of the masses to collaborate for something greater. 12 years ago citizens of Fort Walton noticed a rapid increase in panhandlers and went to the police for a solution, only to find the police could do nothing for this problem. After realizing the City couldn't help them, they turned to another community resource, the Chamber.
After a few meetings with the City, the Chamber decided to take initiative and move forward with helping the members of our community who truly need it. After working with the City, they converted 8 acres of land in the northwest corner of the city to be used as the location for a center to help the homeless in our area. The Chamber hired an architect who projected the project would require $300,000. The staggering number did little to discourage the Chamber and Corcoran reached out to Don and Matt Gaetz to see if government funding would be available, and thankfully it was. With the funding the transformation of what was once a waste management plant to the first men's shelter in Fort Walton began.
3 years ago the first round of men occupied the facility that houses up to 20 people. Within a few years this facility will be turned into housing for women with a new building on campus being constructed to hold up to 60 men. One of the important aspects that Corcoran emphasized about One Hopeful Place was that the campus isn't just for Fort Walton to use, but for all of Okaloosa County. The mission of One Hopeful Place is to be the front door into permanent housing and to end the cycle of homelessness of those experiencing housing loss in Okaloosa County.
As a new member learning that I am now apart of an organization that produces these kinds of results is inspiring. The Chamber helped create a space that provides food, lodging, utilities and training to obtain a better life all for free to the people who need it most. One of the biggest take away's I got from talking with Ted was that somewhere around 250 Chamber members had a hand in making One Hopeful Place an invaluable resource for our community. As a new member of the Chamber I'm excited to see what impactful project I may be apart of similar to this one.