Fall Ball Focus: The St. Petersburg Free Clinic

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By: Nymala Ingasy

Beginning in 1970, the St. Petersburg Free Clinic has been offering healthcare, hope, help and compassion to the under-served community of Pinellas County, Florida. It is a multi-service, independent, not-for-profit human services agency that provides clients with food, shelter, medical services, and temporary aid. When it came to choosing a charity for Fall Ball, the St. Petersburg Free Clinic was an easy choice because of all the people our donations would help. It meant we had the opportunity to do real, immediate good in the community we visited.

The free clinic is actually an umbrella organization with 8 different programs that serve as a beacon of hope and help to families in need. They provide support to those who fall through the cracks or are otherwise unserved in some way, shape or form. They provide food through the Community Kitchen program, open to all who are hungry 6 days a week. Last year, they provided 39,000 evening meals to the hungry. The clinic also houses a food bank, which collected and distributed over 2.5 million pounds of food, as well as the We Help program, which provides emergency food, utility payments, personal hygiene products and other services and referrals. There is also a men's shelter, a women's shelter and a family shelter. Lastly and certainly not least, the St. Petersburg free clinic has both a medical and a dental center, which provided over 12,000 points of service in the last year and provided over $200,000 worth of dental services.

Our donation consisted of over $200 worth of personal care items, including shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, toothpaste, deodorant and other products for men, women and children. It was rolled in on a metal folding cart to the shock and astonishment of the workers and volunteers at the clinic, who were not expecting such a gift. Their exact words when they saw what was being wheeled in was "we never get this stuff!" It is hard to imagine that a toothbrush or a box of tissues might be so important as to nearly move the staff to tears, but when it is put in the perspective of how many people benefited from those items does the picture come clear. It was truly an eye-opening experience to donate such simple items that do so much, but one that should be repeated in the future by all of us.