Holding back tears, Matt Hope praised his family, friends and community after receiving the 2013 Joseph M. Plasko Memorial Citizenship Award Thursday night at the Masonic Temple Hall in Hometown.
Sponsored annually by the Tamaqua Area Chamber of Commerce and Greater Tamaqua Industrial Development Enterprises, this honor represented Tamaqua's 50th Citizenship honor recipient. An honoree is chosen each year by a panel representing a cross-section of the community.
"We all know Matt Hope as a lifelong resident of Tamaqua, family man and hardworking businessman," said Linda Yulanavage. "However there is another side to Matt Hope one that few people know, unless you have been privileged enough to experience it."
"It's overwhelming. I never thought I fit into that category," said Hope, who said he is not a member of clubs and organizations due to frequent off-hour demands of his livelihood. He 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.
"Matt is a dedicated and humble volunteer, working in the background to do whatever he can for the people and organizations in our community," said Yulanavage. "Matt does whatever needs to be done without any hesitation or thought of personal gain or recognition. He thinks nothing of lending a hand to help, including opening his home to strangers. He is always ready to help those in need."
"I'm so proud of my husband," said Matt's wife Lisa during an Internet video conversation held via cell phone. Lisa, who was away at a wedding and couldn't attend the event, said, "Matt is so deserving of this award. He always goes above and beyond to help everyone."
"Matt's character and integrity are admired by many," praised Yulanavage, a past Citizenship Award recipient. "His heartfelt concern and consideration of others is part of who Matt Hope is. His anonymous contributions and help to residents or strangers in need, speaks volumes about Matt."
Presenting certificates to Hope during the program, Sen. Dave Argall, Rep. Jerry Knowles and Schuylkill County Commissioners George Halcovage and Gary Hess, each spoke of good deeds done by Hope. Recognizing his kindness, Halcovage ended his speech saying, "Those who bring sunshine to the light of others cannot keep it to themselves."
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.
Recently, 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.
Hope has 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.
"I hope I can continue to do this until the end of my career," said Hope. "I love the town. I see how it's coming along. It's getting better all of the time."
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 is the son of Lorene Hope and the late Robert C. Hope.
The Hope family expressed their appreciation to Yulanavage, Eileen Barron and those who put so much effort into the event.
"Matt's behind the scenes support and his caring for our community is a result of his Tamaqua pride and his passion to make this a better place for all of us," added Yulanavage. "When Matt received word that he had been chosen to receive this year's award, he insisted that we had the wrong number. But we truly didn't. Matt represents the true meaning of this award a person with a big heart giving back to his community."