Starting a non-profit agency is never easy.  Many people will tell you that it can “never happen”” or “it won’t survive”.  I’m sure the founding members of Metro Wellness heard those exact statements from critics when they were looking to start a community outreach center for persons living with HIV.  Now, twenty five years later, with active community center locations throughout the Tampa Bay area, Metro Wellness provides premier comprehensive HIV services and medical care, social activities, classes, support groups, counseling, health and fitness programs, youth programs, substance abuse programs, older adult programs, behavioral health services and free HIV testing.

What started as one community center in 1993 has turned into a massive non-profit organization that currently serves four counties in the Tampa Bay area and approximately 15,000 individuals annually with direct services and/or case management.  It would take more pages than what we offer in this current issue but we would like to highlight some of the amazing accomplishments that Metro Wellness has provided to the Tampa Bay communities over the years:

LGBT Welcome Center – 2227 2235 Central Avenue St Petersburg, FL 33713

Founded in 2014 and located next door to the fabulous Metro Thrift & Gift Shop, St. Petersburg’s LGBTQ+ Welcome Center is an inviting community space for locals and visitors.  The Welcome Center also functions as local LGBT coffee house, where you can meet friends, study, hold meetings, enjoy first dates, read a book, and participate in enriching programs.

Metro Thrift & Gift Shop – 2235 Central Avenue St Petersburg, FL 33713

Opened in 2014, 100% of store profits are used to support ongoing HIV/AIDS programs and services and provide purchase certificates for hundreds of people with HIV in the Tampa Bay area. Virtually every purchase or donation that you make can have a direct impact on people and/or families affected by HIV/AIDS in Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties.  All accepted donations are tax deductible.

New Building Purchase in 2016 – 3251 3rd Ave N St Petersburg, FL 33713

With over 47,000 square feet under one roof, Metro Wellness has plans for this massive building.  These plans include spaces for events, various support groups and programs, HIV testing, case management, counseling, and offices for staff.  Their targeted completion date is October 2018.

Over the past year, it has been an amazing honor to meet the staff and learn of their amazing work through outreach programs and services offered at Metro Wellness and I wish them another 25 years of success!!  In closing, I’d like to end with a quote by founding board member, Robert Pope: “It is an honor to be part of an organization that offers and provides service that continues to enhance the quality of life.  Always remember the beginnings.”

For more information on Metro Wellness, visit their website at metrotampabay.org.