In Issue 31
Father Bill Collins, founder and chief executive officer of the Poverello Center since it began, came to Florida from Canada in 1986. He fell in love with Florida and was able to get his green card and took the job as Chaplain at Imperial Point Hospital. The 3rd floor of Imperial Point was filled with young men who were HIV positive. Of the ones that were lucky enough to come out of the hospital most of them had no money, so Father Bill cashed in his pension to help these men buy groceries. In a very short time there were more people than he had pension and before he knew it the pension was gone. He then started using his salary (which didn’t go very far), so he took a job teaching at Broward Community College and with the salary he got from that he rented a storefront and started a thrift store and food bank. Whatever profits they made at the thrift store they used to buy groceries. For a very long time they were not able to apply for Ryan White money because they were doing so well, but eventually they were able to get grants and help more people.
One of the things that Father Bill personally fought the Department of Health over was to help people that may not be HIV+, but were affected by the disease. For example, if a mother was HIV+ the department would only help her with food and not her children. Father Bill understood that a mother would be splitting her allocation of food with her children and none of them would be getting the proper nutritional allotment.
According to Father Bill the success of Poverello is due to the gay community’s bars (especially Buddy’s and Lefty’s in the early days), the volunteers (ranging from teenagers to people in their 90’s) and the fact that they treat clients with respect and remember that that are there for the clients.
The way one becomes a client of Poverello is to be HIV positive and have a case manager from the Department of Health. The case manager will get a client into care (seeing a doctor). If you are 150% of the poverty level the case manager will then refer to Poverello or another agency. Once a client is referred to Poverello they can use all their services. Currently Poverello has many services for their clients, which include:
1) The Food Bank where client can come in and get a variety of food items. “One of the reasons we make people come in for the food rather than deliver is for the social interaction,” says Father Bill.
2) The Thrift Store, where clients get vouchers for a certain amount of money for clothing and furniture every month.
3) Friends Fitness Center, where clients can work out in a more intimate setting and feel less intimidated. According to Chief Operating Officer Thomas Smith, “There are so many marvelous stories of people who could barely walk and within weeks they were coming back to life.”
4) The Wellness Center Annex, where Poverello offers alternative therapies including acupuncture, chiropractors, yoga and massage.
Father Bill hopes that they don’t have a future because he has faith that there will be a cure for HIV/AIDS, but currently their next goal is to provide low income housing for their clients. Poverello will be moving in approximately 1 year into a building they bought at 2056 N. Dixie Highway (next to the GLCC).
The biggest fundraiser of the year for Poverello is the annual bowl-a-thon, which will be celebrating its 19th anniversary this year on Saturday, August 8th at Manor Lanes. So far there are 48 teams registered and a third session was added to accommodate them..
They have 3 sessions at 12 noon, 3 pm and 5 pm. In between the sessions they will have a live auction. They have many items for the auction, including:
1) a trip to learn to cook in Tuscany
2) a trip to Costa Rica
3) a trip to San Francisco, and many more.
Dale Madison, Fundraising Coordinator, said, “My goal this year is to raise $75,000 and I believe my community will come together to help me reach this goal.” Tom Smith has agreed to shave his beautiful head of hair at the bowl-a-thon if $10,000 is raised. Contribute to Tom’s haircut by dropping off a check at Poverello or by going to Poverello.Kintera.org/TomSmith.
Some of the businesses supporting the bowl-a-thon with teams are: Macy’s, Sun Radio Network, Ultimate Vodka, Allstate Insurance, Sidelines Sports Bar, Georgie’s Alibi, Bill’s, Hotspots Magazine and many more. E-mail [email protected] for sponsorship information on our two teams.
Poverello is still accepting donations for raffles and the grand prizes. You can donate by calling 954-561-3663 ext. 123. If you want more information, or if you want to donate directly to Poverello, go to Poverello.org.