In 2007, Dr. John Paul, a USFSP professor who at that time was also chairing the social action committee at his church, located in downtown St. Petersburg, felt no one congregation could adequately address the persistent and rising presence of the city’s homeless population. So, John reached out to interested persons from other downtown churches. They met monthly at Trinity Lutheran Church, in their Redeemer Hall, a multi-purpose fellowship room located on the third floor. (The hall became affectionately referred to as "the upper room.") Two dozen or more people – clergy and laity – participated in these meetings, discussing different strategies for addressing the needs of people experiencing homelessness. From these discussions Celebrate Outreach was founded. Three years later, in 2010, Celebrate Outreach incorporated and became a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization.
Serving the basic needs of the homeless community became an immediate priority for the new organization. Celebrate Outreach became the catalyst and support base for two of our member congregations -- Trinity Lutheran Church and Unitarian Universalist Church of St. Petersburg -- to serve free, hot meals to people experiencing hunger and homelessness. As a result, the Friday Night Picnic and the Saturday Morning Breakfast came to life. Since that time, over 15,600 meals have been served annually.
Respecting the people experiencing homelessness has always been a hallmark of Celebrate Outreach. This is what led the organization to embrace and help promote Homeless Persons Memorial Day in Pinellas County. This national observance was introduced to Pinellas County in 2007 by George Bolden, and St. Vincent de Paul Center was the first organization to host a Homeless Persons Memorial Service, which was attended by government officials, clergy, community leaders and people experiencing homelessness. In subsequent years, due to the growth in the attendance and the addition of a fellowship meal afterwards, the downtown memorial services have been held at St. Peter's Cathedral and Trinity Lutheran Church. Memorial services have also been held at Pinellas Hope and churches throughout the county.
Here are some historical milestones since our founding.
2011 - Celebrate Outreach conducts their second Concrete Solutions to End Homeless Conference
2010 - Celebrate Outreach is incorporated as a Florida nonprofit organization, and is recognized as a 501(c)(3) tax exempt organization
2009 - Celebrate Outreach conducts their first Concrete Solutions to End Homeless Conference
2007 - Celebrate Outreach is founded; weekend meal service begins; hosts first Homeless Persons Memorial Service
"In 2007, Dr. John Paul...felt no one congregation could adequately address the persistent and rising presence of the city’s homeless population."