St. Petersburg residents can undoubtedly agree that the vibe of the city is warm and welcoming to everyone. From the long list of attractions and things to do, to the gorgeous (and almost perfect) sunny weather, there is hardly a downfall to the area. However, like most cities, there are still neighbors in need. Non-profits have developed to assist these folks and offer a helping hand during tough times. One notable organization in particular is the St. Petersburg Free Clinic, located at 863 3rd Avenue North in Downtown St. Pete.
Perhaps you are fortunate enough to have never heard of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic because you have never needed their services before. This non-profit organization began in 1970. With a great staff and wonderful programs, they offer services for individuals who need assistance with healthcare, food and shelter. For some, they provide a lifeline to prevent them from becoming homeless. On the other hand, they transform lives of the homeless population so that these people can become independent.
Interested in hearing a personal success story of a St. Petersburg Free Clinic client? Watch this brief video and learn more about the organization below.
How exactly does the St. Petersburg Free Clinic assist those in need? First of all, this organization is not simply just a free clinic. Although it began as mainly focusing on healthcare, throughout the years the needs of the community expanded, therefore the programs they offered expanded as well. Currently there are eight programs to help meet the needs of healthcare, food and shelter: Health Center, Dental Program, Food Bank (feeding 50,000 people every month), Community Kitchen (with a cook that serves hot and delicious meals six nights a week to anyone who is hungry), We Help Services (social services that help individuals get over the bump in the road that their having), Beacon House (men’s residence), Family Residence, and the brand new Baldwin Women’s Residence (that can house up to fifty women thanks to the generosity of the community).
I had the pleasure of meeting with Debbie Sokolov, Director of Development, and Gina Ruiz, Director of Communications, and the passion that these two women have for the organization most definitely shined throughout our meeting. The way in which they reacted to each question I asked proved to me that the directors of this organization truly believe in the services they offer. However, believing in something only gets you so far. The St. Petersburg Free Clinic still needs the help from the community to keep the services and programs prospering in order to continue to assist those in need.
“There’s a place for everybody here at the Free Clinic,” Sokolov said as she explained the programs. The fact of the matter is that there would not be a place for everyone without the financial and food donations, and the wonderful volunteers who give their time to help throughout the month. If you are looking to give back to the community, aside from money and food, then consider donating bus passes to The St. Petersburg Free Clinic. Surprisingly, bus passes are one of the “hottest items” in need. Think about it – if you are homeless, but take the correct steps to find employment, how are you going to get to your job? Transportation is the biggest barrier for employment, but you can help by contributing bus passes for the organization to administer accordingly to citizens in need. Another way you can help these people with transportation is by donating bicycles. The St. Petersburg Free Clinic will repair them so that they are safe to ride and then offer them to their clients so they have a way of getting to and from their new job.
“We forget until there is a tragedy in our lives or nation to realize how fortunate we are,” Sokolov said as she reflected back on her four years with the organization. “Other people are experiencing hardship on a daily basis and my outlook on life is better because I’m reminded of that everyday.” As she told success stories of past clients, a flood of emotions travelled through the room. Meeting with the Directors of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic and seeing the facilities in person truly put things in perspective for me. Most of us are incredibly blessed for what we do have and if we are in a place where we can help out, we should give back to others in the community.
What’s next for this organization? Details remain undisclosed, but Ruiz hinted that the St. Petersburg Free Clinic will be distributing even more food and have obtained the means to close the hunger gap in Pinellas County in the coming years. Stay tuned to hear just how they are going to accomplish this incredible milestone!
If you, or someone you know, is in need, walk into the doors of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic and allow the staff and volunteers to help guide you down your path to independency. There are emergency shelters, food pantries and locations that serve hot meals daily in Downtown St. Pete – don’t think that you are stuck in an unsafe environment – just ask for help. You can lead a safer, happier and healthier life with the assistance of the St. Petersburg Free Clinic. Did you know you can dial “211” from any phone at any time for the emergency social services in Pinellas County?
DowntownStPete.com is proud to share the great places to go, dtsp events and things to do, and personalities who make DTSP so special (just like Debbie Sokolov, Gina Ruiz and the staff and volunteers of The St. Petersburg Free Clinic). Stay up to date with all of the feature stories by creating a free profile and interacting with other interesting members just like you! Post a photo of how you have helped the community onto Downtown Now. We would love to hear from you!