A humble, behind-the-scenes hero will step forward to claim the 50th Tamaqua Area Citizenship honor.
Matt Hope, 55, lifelong Tamaqua resident and tireless supporter of his community, has been chosen the recipient of the 2013 Joseph M. Plasko Memorial Citizenship Award. The honor is sponsored by the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce and Greater Tamaqua Industrial Development Enterprises.
An honoree is chosen each year by a panel representing a cross-section of the community.
Hope said on Friday that he was shocked when he learned of the committee's decision.
"It's overwhelming. I never thought I fit into that category," he said. Hope said he is not a member of clubs and organizations due to frequent off-hour demands of his livelihood. He recalls when his Uncle Albert Hope and J. Keilman Dudley tried to persuade him to become involved. But Hope's work schedule simply wouldn't allow it.
Hope is owner of Hope's Collision & Towing, Tamaqua, and co-proprietor with wife Lisa of Our Family Mini Mart.
But it isn't his direct business affiliations that have earned him the award. Instead, Hope was voted the winner by virtue of his lifetime of generosity in providing help in all areas of his community.
For instance, Hope recently donated use of his flatbed trailer and other equipment to the Tamaqua Historical Society as work commences on an overhaul at the museum.
He has donated refreshments to the Eastern Schuylkill Recreation Commission and volunteers snow removal efforts at his church, Zion Lutheran.
Just last week, Hope and his family donated $1,500 to the Tamaqua-Carbon Unit, American Cancer Society, funds raised through a birthday greeting board at his market, a business managed by daughter Holly.
Hope also donates use of a light plant and fuel, as needed, at the Tamaqua Area School District. Hope is loyal to his alma mater. He graduated from TAHS in 1975 after taking part in a school work program, which allowed him to leave school early to work alongside his late father at the auto shop business.
"He does things behind the scenes that organizations need done," explained Linda Yulanavage, Chamber executive director. "He's supportive of everything that goes on in the community."
Hope has proudly supported Tamaqua Knee-Hi Football, and he sponsors a Babe Ruth baseball team. He also supplied heavy wreckers to Tamaqua Borough free of charge when work was being done at Bungalow Park, the town's community pool and recreation center.
He donates to the fire department and is a social member of South Ward Fire Company. On top of that, anyone watching a Tamaqua Halloween Parade will notice that 9 or 10 large pieces of equipment from Hope's Collision and Towing comprise nearly a full division of the parade.
Still, when notified by phone that he'd won the honor, Hope's first comment was: "Are you sure you have the right phone number?"
Hope is married to the former Lisa Rossochacy of Tuscarora. In addition to daughter Holly, the couple has a daughter Laura, a student at Marywood University, and son Matthew, a 2012 graduate of Tamaqua Area High School and who will enter the family business as the fourth generation.
Hope says he fully intends to continue his involvement in the community he cares so passionately about.
"I hope I can continue to do this until the end of my career. I love the town. I see how it's coming along. It's getting better all of the time."
Hope is the son of Lorene Hope and the late Robert C. Hope.
He will receive the coveted award at the 63rd Annual Chamber/TIDE Dinner to be held Thursday, April 25, at the Masonic Temple Hall, Route 54, Hometown.