Established in 1993, Metro Wellness & Community Centers is a 501(c)(3) organization committed to providing quality health and wellness services that are inclusive, relevant, supportive and represent the lifetime continuum of the diverse people in our community.
With active community center locations throughout the Tampa Bay area, the centers provide 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.
We strive to promote a healthy environment for all and to foster diversity within the community as a whole, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age or economic status.
Written by Robert Pope, founding Board Member
When I first joined King of Peace Metropolitan Community Church in 1984, it was a small, growing community of faith. To get people involved and more active with King of Peace, a series of fundraisers were held every six months or so, in which church members would open their homes to host formal cocktail parties for $25 per person. The name “Metropolitan Charities” was simply made up. This way we were not promoting cocktail parties for a church fund (King of Peace). During the early days of the AIDS discovery, King of Peace was the first local faith-based organization that opened its heart and doors to those infected and affected by the disease. Volunteers helped set up and orchestrate counseling sessions, a food bank, and SDIA: Pinellas County’s first AIDS support group. Much of the funding for these volunteer programs resulted from the Metropolitan Charities fundraising parties. My partner of these many years, Lawrence Konrad, was one of the original co-chairs of SDIA, and the first meeting to organize was held at our home, where I met my first AIDS patient/activist, a young man whom I ultimately represented (regarding legal matters).
It was clear that more space was greatly needed in order for the organization to grow. Over the years it became apparent to the Board of Directors of King of Peace M.C.C. that Metro Charities needed to expand its base and bring in others from the community to serve on its board. This was not because of any disagreement with the church – only a recognition that the baby Metro Charities needed to sprout its wings and leave the mothership. This happened when Metro Charities left the church building and moved across the street, where it had much more room for client services, with the added benefit of better confidentiality and more space for a true community center: a desire of the LGBT community in Tampa Bay for many years. I am particularly proud of the continued success of Metro Wellness and Community Centers (formerly known as Metropolitan Charities) through the leadership of Lorraine Langlois, the current CEO. Who could have imagined that this small, undeveloped agency would grow into the positive agency serving several counties in Florida? Who could have imagined? It just shows you how important the selection of leadership is when it comes to a growing agency. Lorraine can be justly proud of the staff and administrators she has hired and nurtured through the years, and we as a community can be proud that these individuals serve so many throughout Tampa Bay. It is a tribute to Lorraine’s leadership, and I am mighty proud to have been involved with the agency when Lorraine was hired as the first full-time employee. Today, Metro is a comprehensive social service agency that meets the needs of the HIV-affected, LGBT and other at–risk communities of Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando Counties serving nearly 3,000 people at any one time through substance abuse treatment and prevention, counseling, case management, prevention services, a thrift store, and social and recreational programs.
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.
I greatly respect and honor the efforts of the founding members of Metro Wellness and Community Centers: Rev. Dr. Fred C. Williams and Rev. Renne Shawver. Of course, Lorraine Langlois would be included, as would Mark Davis. Johnny Williams, the CPA from Tallahassee (who died of complications from HIV), Charles Gerardi, PhD, who facilitated the first counseling sessions at King of Peace for those with HIV; John Barnett, DDS, who served for many faithful years as a member of the Board of Directors, and who was the first Dentist in Pinellas County that would accept and treat those with HIV; and the original Board of Directors of King of Peace who had the vision to see the opportunity and possibilities for Metropolitan Charities, and who served as its first Board of Directors — Rev. Dr. Fred C. Williams, Donna S. Remsnyder, Esq., Beverly Robinson, Gayle A Schultes, Lawrence A. Fischer, CPA, Richard F. Waugh, Pauline A. Cordeire, Richard L. Harmon, Ana Santa-Maria, Diane Gammon, and yours truly, Robert Pope.