Lifelong Navarre resident Wendy Lincoln’s non-profit organization, Have Hope You Matter, put together over 1,000 bags of toys and candy for children of families in need during the holiday season in 2018.

NAVARRE – After Hurricane Michael devastated Northwest Florida in October 2018, lifelong Navarre resident Wendy Lincoln’s first thought was to help in any way she could. She never thought that path would take her to starting her own non-profit.


One year later, Lincoln is in charge of Have Hope You Matter – her own 501 (c) non-profit organization with a specific focus on helping needy children of families in rural areas who she believes are largely forgotten when the holidays.


“I was kind of stuck on what to call (the non-profit), but my husband reminded me of a conversation I’d had with someone early on,” Lincoln said. “It was a woman who had lost everything (after the hurricane) … and she was struggling to get food.


“She told me ‘I have no hope, I don’t matter,’ and really quickly I let her know she needed to have hope and she does matter. Everybody matters to me.”


Lincoln made a big impact in her first year. She put together 334 bags of toys and candy for area children, sent an additional 177 bags to Clarksville, 150 bags to Apalachicola, 100 bags to Jackson County and 300 more to Ronald McDonald House for sick children.


She was also able to purchase tools for the father of a family in order for him to get back to work.


In total, Lincoln put together over 1,000 bags for children in need and came away with the understanding that there was more work to do – and that having an official non-profit to attach her name to would be a benefit to those she was trying to help.


She’s calling this year’s holiday giving effort “Christmas of Hope for 850” – focused on people who need help from Tallahassee to Pensacola.


“There’s a lot of scamming and stuff going on, so any possible way to be official and let people know you’re serious about trying to help is a benefit,” Lincoln said. “Really and truly, there are people out there that are still really struggling. One of the families we’re working with just got moved into a FEMA trailer in August … they had been living in tents in the woods behind an auto parts store in the Cottondale area for 10 months before that.


“We are talking about people who can’t afford meals, much less toys. People who have had trees fall through their homes and had to make the decision to buy beds last Christmas instead of toys, so we’re hoping to make sure the kids don’t go two straight Christmases with no toys. We really like to focus on families that are kind of out in the middle of nowhere, because they seem to be the easiest ones to forget … places like Clarksville, Alford and Chipley don’t even have outreach centers for people to go to.”


Lincoln, who was an accountant for almost 30 years, is organizing two separate toy pickups on Dec. 22, in Panama City from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. and in Mariana from 3:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. Lincoln said people who’d like to donate can call her at 850-736-0428 for the locations of the pickups.


Toys and donations can also be sent to the Have Hope You Matter Non-Profit, Inc. at 2813 DH Harvell Circle, Navarre, Fl., 32566, or you can visit the non-profit’s website at havehopeyoumatter.com.


“We are a small group, but we’re trying to make a big impact,” Lincoln said. “Most of these parents, they don’t want stuff like laptops or computers. They just want anything they can put under the tree for their kids … I think it’s important that rural areas don’t end up forgotten at this time of year.”