Non Profit Spotlight: My non-profit choice for November is a venerable organization that has served our city since 1970….. It’s the St. Petersburg Free Clinic, a multi-service, independent human services that provides assistance with food, shelter and health care.
Brief History: St. Petersburg Free Clinic was founded in May, 1970 by Warner “Butch” Anderson, a senior psychology major at the University of South Florida, and his friend, Dr. Linda Shaffer, who practiced at Mound Park Hospital. They were concerned that thousands of people in the area were not receiving adequate medical care. The public clinics that cared for the poor had been closed and while Medicare and Medicaid were designed to help the needy, many physicians in St. Petersburg refused to participate, citing the red tape involved and the low payments they received. Mr. Anderson and Dr. Shaffer were also concerned with the explosion of illegal drugs being sold on the streets of the city and the failure or inability of government agencies and the medical community to recognize the problem and respond to it. As the Clinic began serving more individuals, Anderson and Shaffer persuaded several physicians and nurses to donate their services. Clinics were held whenever a doctor was available — generally on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and sometimes on the weekends, when the medics of the military reserve saw patients. All of the equipment was donated; sample prescription medicines; lab work and x-rays were provided as they could be begged.
In October 1976 Sister Margaret Freeman joined the Free Clinic and was named Director in 1977. Under her direction, the Free Clinic continued to grow, addressing domestic violence, pre-natal care and hunger. This led to the creation of three agencies that continue to operate in St. Petersburg: The Center Against Spouse Abuse (CASA, Inc.), which began at the Free Clinic on December 7, 1977, and later became a separate entity; the New Life Birthing Center, which is now part of Pinellas County Health Department; and the Suncoast Food Bank (now St. Petersburg Free Clinic Food Bank), which began in April, 1981 with the motto: “Don’t Waste Food, Feed the Hungry.” Eldercare, a program to provide medical assistance to persons 55 and over, began in July 1992 at the Sanderlin Center on Twenty-Second Avenue South. In 1996 the Free Clinic established the Sister Margaret Freeman Foundation in order “to develop a secure future funding base.”
For more information about the Clinic, to volunteer or donate please visit their web site at www.stpetersburgfreeclinic.org The Clinic is located at 863 3rd Avenue, No.., St. Petersburg, FL 33701; Telephone: 727/821-1200.