Metro opens up future welcome center to tours in hopes to boost donations

By : Steve Blanchard
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St. Petersburg On a rainy Sunday afternoon, employees and volunteers with Metro Wellness and Community Centers welcomed guests to tour its new Welcome Center, which is in need of some TLC.

The new facility, which is in a relocated, old-style bungalow home that was moved from just two blocks away, is currently no more than a shell. But the Metro staff sees much more within its walls.

“This will be a welcoming place and a place for youth to come and enjoy each other’s company,” explained Adam Jahr, who conducted the mid-afternoon tour. “As you can see, we have a ways to go, but there’s a lot we can do here.”

As reported previously in Watermark, the Welcome Center will serve as both a resource for visitors to LGBT Tampa Bay, as well as a location for LGBT youth to congregate and find services. To become fully operational, the center must raise nearly $160,000. Larry Biddle, director of center development, hopes to have the location open before St. Pete Pride.

As Jahr led groups through the 1,135 square-foot space, he explained the functionality of each room.

“Here, we could have a conference table for groups wanting to meet here,” he explained while standing in a room just off the kitchen. “And this sunroom is a great place to enjoy a coffee and do some reading.”

Each room is available for “adoption,” and signs on the walls indicated the price of securing naming rights to each.
The cost of adopting each room is divided by square footage, Jahr explained.

“We took the total amount needed and looked at each space individually,” Jahr said. He added that while one room has been claimed, most of the others are still available. Groups, individuals and companies are all welcome to finance a portion of the space, he said.

The building’s new address is next to the Metro Wellness and Community Center Thrift Store at 2235 Central Ave., in the Grand Central District of St. Petersburg. Metro just finished an indiegogo.com fundraising campaign on the property, and raised just over $13,000.

That doesn’t include donations made outside of the website, however. The Tampa Bay Bears, for example, donated more than $500 after their Jan. 22 event in conjunction with Watermark at Georgie’s Alibi. “Watermark Wednesday” raised $520, which the Bears then handed over to Metro Wellness and Community Centers specifically for the Welcome/Youth Center.

The “Hard Hat Tours” were successful, according to Chris Rudisill, Director of LGBT Community Services, but actual hard hats were not required to tour the facility. The building itself is structurally sound. It just needs upgrades to its appearance, plumbing, access points and electricity.

Jahr explained that the building doesn’t even have electricity yet, but he hopes to see that installed soon. The same goes for plumbing.

“This truly is a shell at the moment, but it’s going to be so much more,” Jahr said.

Metro’s Welcome/Youth Center will be the third of its kind in the country, modeled similarly to the one in Miami, according to Biddle.

For more information on the project or to donate, visit MetroTampaBay.org.

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