In the spirit of wellness for not just myself, but others in the community, I found myself looking for a local, reputable, charitable organization to support. A friend referred me to the St. Petersburg Free Clinic. As I began learning more about the organization, I grew more impressed by the wide breadth of services they offer to those who find themselves in need of help.
With the highest rating given by Charity Navigator, an independent charity rating organization, the four-star rated St. Petersburg Free Clinic (“the Clinic”) spends 92% of its funds directly on the programs and services they provide. Since 1970, the Clinic has been serving the community in Pinellas County through their three tiers of programs: Food, Shelter, and Health Care.
Food & Toiletries: The clinic runs a Food Bank and We Help Services, which provide emergency assistance to people and families in need of food, financial help, personal hygiene items, bus passes, bikes, and other services they may need. The Clinic will provide three days’ worth of food to those in need.
Shelter: The clinic has three separate shelters. One for single men (The Beacon House), one for women, and one for families who are homeless. Each program is different and sculpted to the needs of those they service.
Health Care: The clinic also has a Free Clinic Health Center, which provides primary care services for adults without access to health services, and a Free Clinic Dental Program, which provides dental services for uninsured adults. This health care program has been life saving for those in need of medicine, such as diabetics who cannot afford the expensive insulin and other medications they need.
Part of the St. Pete Free Clinic's mission is to be a "caring organization helping to meet basic, unserved human needs through resources, volunteers, and advocacy." They provide temporary assistance for families and individuals in need of the basics of food, shelter, health care, limited financial assistance, and referral information.
A few weeks ago I decided to visit the St. Petersburg Free Clinic to see firsthand how they were accomplishing this lofty mission, and I was thoroughly impressed. I was so inspired by the work they are doing, that I decided to collect food for their food pantry. While this amazing organization often works with the most vulnerable in our community, it is important to them to recognize the importance of each "clients" dignity. To eliminate food waste, and to provide an even more dignified experience to their clients, the organization has started laying the groundwork to start a "Client Choice Food Pantry" that will allow clients to search for the food they want (like I do in the grocery store), while allowing them to serve more people in less time while decreasing food waste. The Clinic currently distributes approximately two hundred rolls of toilet paper and one hundred forty bars of soap in one week.
I toured the women’s center, where women are able to stay and literally turn their lives around. There is no cost for the initial stay (there is a small fee for the women who stay longer) and they assist the women in finding employment and creating a stable life for themselves. The program is so in demand, they turn down 500 calls a month of women who are looking to stay in the home.
As you can imagine, providing all of these services to individuals and families in all of these ways requires a tremendous amount of support from the community. Their website is a great source of information if you are interested in lending a hand. Volunteering your time at the clinic, hosting your own food or hygiene item drive, purchasing items on their Amazon Wish List, and donating funds are all great ways to support this wonderful organization.