Every Saturday morning from 9AM to 11AM, you can witness a most memorable and magnificent portrayal of people helping people. You will see a large room filled with human “angels”, caregivers who are there every week devoted to giving their time, without question, to those in need. Most who come here to the First United Methodist Church of Boca Raton are homeless and feeling hopeless. A few hours here and you will banish the misconception that all Boca Raton residents flourish in affluent paradise communities. The reality is that many are struggling and desperate.
In most cases, many do not choose this situation. Living on the streets may result from loss of a job, home, or alcohol or drug addiction. Now there is help. An organization named “HOME” provides realistic resources as a place for a new beginning . “HOME”, an acronym for “Homeless Outreach Mentoring and Education” reaches out to those in need aiming for them to “self-sufficient, self-reliant and self-supportive.” HOME’s motto is “From Homelessness to Wholeness.” This is a huge undertaking that has met with great success. How is this being accomplished?
First, HOME assists by providing basic needs (hygiene packets, food, clothing, wellness care.) Next the program helps with wellness, education and job skills. A free service is offered almost everyday: On Sunday, brown bag lunches are distributed; on Monday, a coin laundry service is available; on Thursday night a hot
dinner is offered and on Saturday, it’s free breakfast and showers. If you stop by the church on Saturday morning, you will see various “stations” scattered around the huge multi-purpose activity room. At the entrance, Caseworker Susan Keith greets each individual, shows the layout of the room and services available. Her table is piled high with free books on self-help and spirituality. On the left side of the room, Rita Scott, Executive Director of HOME, runs the kitchen. Her friendly smiles greet each person as she peers through the kitchen opening and oers fresh coee and inviting pastries to all. Later two men enter carrying trays of donated sandwiches and spread them out on the counter. Straight ahead from the entrance there is an area with neat hangars full of clothing separated into men’s and women’s sections. Next, you’ll pass a table of eyeglasses free for the taking. Across the room, kneeling on the floor, a man wiping a spill turns out to be Attorney Michael J. Liss. Obviously everyone pitches in; there are no egos here. Last, Lesley Carmen is ready at her station in the Pain Center to help all. She has been doing Naturopathy and advanced laser therapy for thirty-five years with great success treating Arthritis, Alzheimer’s Disease,Parkinson’s Disease and many other painful conditions.
We met a man named “John” who had developed a blood clot caused by a faulty intravenous tube that had been inserted incorrectly into his hand. Doctors felt it was necessary to amputate his infected hand but instead Jim began regular laser treatments given by Lesley Carmen. She explained that the deep tissue laser therapy decreases inflammation and increases blood flow. This non-surgical laser therapy treatment also known as photobiomodulation is safe, painless and fast. Today John’s hand has been saved. “Incredible,” he said as he demonstrated that he can now move his hand and fingers with minimal pain. Next we met “Jim”, as he moved around the room greeting each person by name and chatting comfortably about their current situation and progress. This is James H. Batmasian, owner of Investments Limited, real estate owner and also philanthropist. We watched him in action at the church as he kindly gave each person attention. His humble manner made it hard to believe that he (and his wife, Marta) are the single largest owners of commercial properties in Boca Raton. Wearing faded jeans as he conversed in an unassuming manner, Jim said, “no one knows I do this; I stay under the radar.” But this roomful of people knows his generosity and thoughtfulness. For example, the man with injured hand said that Jim “called me every morning to see if my hand was improving.” He added, “he’s an angel.”
Indeed, many who come to the church feel the same way. He hands out gift cards to stores (that do not carry alcohol.) He rewards those who are “clean and sober” with needed items such as food, cell phones, etc. He sincerely wants to help those struggling to better themselves who can’t get jobs, some due to negative background checks. Mr. Batmasian helps them find a job or hires them himself. For example, he bought pressure cleaning equipment for a man named Lewis, helped John get into detailing cars, and led another man get work as a parking attendant. One success story is Don who became so adept working in Jim’s business, that he became one of Jim’s top property managers.
Jim’s goal is to continue supporting the HOME program until no one is left to come to them for help. “I’m not Santa Claus,” he said, “but they know I’m here for them.” He doesn’t just bail people out. He leads them to learn how to be successful in the work force. He said, “If they can make $500 a week, then they can afford a rent of $500 a month, and then they are no longer homeless.” In another effort to show the positives of clean living and the rewards of work, Mr. Batmasian took a group out to a restaurant for brunch. In the relaxed dining atmosphere, he had a chance to delve deeper into their individual stories and also
to set an example that hard work offers this kind of fringe benefit.
With the success of this pilot program of HOME, Jim would like to see further growth from Boca Raton to other cities, states and, eventually, worldwide. He has
been seen walking along local beaches, with an eye out for those who are homeless or needy, and is not one to speak empty words. He is a man of action, and HOME is only one of the many charities he and his wife support. For example, he has also been instrumental in improving the lives of at-risk youth in the community. Jim was the founder of “PROPEL” (an acronym for “People Reaching Out to Provide Education and Leadership”), an organization that provides
mentorship and skills training.
Jim is driven by his strong belief in his faith. He encourages everyone to use prayer and spirituality to get a second chance in life and to find the good in others.
There is no question that Jim is a true model of selfless giving. It’s obvious, this is a man with a huge heart.
To find out more about HOME, please visit www.homeboca.org or give them a call at 561-465-5311.