St. Pete First's Street Ministry cooks and serves meals to the homeless 5-6 nights per month. Their current monthly schedule is:
1st Mondays - Cooking and Serving
1st Tuesdays- Cooking and Serving
2nd Tuesdays - Cooking and Serving
2nd Wednesdays - Cooking and Serving
4th Mondays - Cooking and Serving
5th Mondays - Serving only
This year marks the 27th anniversary since the Street Ministry’s inception. The St. Petersburg First United Methodist Church Street Ministry is a part of the SERVE PILLAR and was also a Doug Brown Ministry Partner with UMCM SUNCOAST.
In 1995, a small group of church volunteers would serve food to the homeless at City Hall and later near Mirror Lake. By 2000, this Ministry began a regular monthly supper at St. Vincent de Paul that expanded to three nights per month in 2008. In the early years, no direct church funding was provided, so the volunteers solicited donations, both money and food, from our parishioners and the entire St. Petersburg business community. In 2008, funding for the Street Ministry was provided as a budget item, so no outside donations were necessary. Due to the downturn in the economy, a shortfall of funds required a onetime infusion of cash from the permanent fund in 2013 to fully fund the Ministry. Beginning in 2014 and continuing, Street Ministry has received designated giving that goes straight to the ministry account and a line-item budget from Church Council. In 2015, a fourth night of service was added on the 2nd Wednesday and in 2016, a fifth night was added on the 4th Monday. In 2017, the Street Ministry prepared and served 8000 meals to the needy population at the St. Vincent de Paul homeless shelter. In 2019, a sixth night began, serving food only, occurring in those months having 5 weeks on a Monday. Also, in 2019, a formal Agreement was initiated between St. Vincent de Paul and St. Petersburg First United Methodist Church outlining each parties’ responsibilities in serving food at St. Vincent. In 2020, due to the Pandemic, staffing issues occurred, but the commitment to serve the homeless was not interrupted and continues into 2022. Other churches and organizations also provide meals throughout the month at St. Vincent de Paul, but some are small, making their commitment unreliable. St. Pete First is the largest Church/Organization that serves nightly meals for those in need every month.
Approximately ninety people serve with St. Petersburg First United Methodist Church Street Ministry at St. Vincent de Paul. A team of 4 to 7 cooks prepares the food in our church kitchen. Each of our teams at the shelter, consisting of 4 to 11 individuals, served meals to between 100 and 150 people each night for many years. The number of individuals seeking a nightly meal has decreased to about 85 people nightly (in 2022) for reasons that are unknown.
A volunteer will donate about two hours each month on this very worth-while cause. No prior experience in cooking or serving food is needed.
Beginning in 2018, we officially began staffing the Job Center at the Salvation Army in South St. Petersburg. Hours of operation were Monday thru Thursday from 9:30 to 11:30 A.M. People staying at this shelter and other individuals, primarily from the surrounding area, came for assistance in finding a job. We prepared resumes, established e-mail accounts, and assisted with online job searches using desktop computers. Volunteers served as little as 1 day a month for two hours, or as much as 8 hours weekly. Volunteering at the Job Center required some prior experience in operating a computer, otherwise, all training was provided. The Job Center closed at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020 and it remains uncertain if it will ever reopen.
Hal Heitler is the Coordinator for this Ministry. To learn how to participate, contact him at 727-448-6291 or by email at email@example.com.