The Collaborative Building Workshop is summarized in the following Real-Time Record
History of the
Willa Carson Health and Wellness Center
Fifteen years ago Mrs. Willa Carson, a retired nurse from Baltimore, founded the North Greenwood Health Resource Center to meet the needs of the uninsured and under-served children and families in Clearwater, Florida. Her vision was a free, culturally sensitive, not-for-profit health care clinic located in the heart of the North Greenwood Community.
Through her compelling personality, Willa was able to secure volunteers from the community’s churches, various agencies and local government offices. The original Center opened May 4, 1997 at 1001 North Greenwood, building 22, apartments 1 and 2 encompassing 2,000 square feet. Mrs. Carson served as both the Administrator and Center Nurse.
In 1998, a unique opportunity arose when the City of Clearwater designated the Greenwood Area a Brownfields Redevelopment Zone. The present site is located at 1108 N. Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue Clearwater, was an abandoned gas station, which was cleaned up to facilitate the health care center. Upon Mrs. Carson’s persuasive appeal, the city agreed to lease the site to the Center for one dollar a year for the next 30 years. Both State Senator Jack Latvala and the City of Clearwater were instrumental in this process.
The Center’s name changed to the Willa Carson Health Resource Center© in March 2006 to honor Mrs. Carson. She passed away in April, 2006, at the age of 80 still serving the community and people that she loved.
The Willa Carson Health and Wellness Center, winner of the 2011 Clearwater Small Not-for-Profit of the Year award, is staffed with a full-time Nurse Practitioner, and two medical assistants who manage triage, scheduling and patient coordination. There are several volunteer health care providers that generously donate their time to help with a variety of medical issues.
The Center which serves approximately 4,000 uninsured and under-served patients, provides medical services to all of Pinellas County, with 30% coming from outside of the North Greenwood Community. Services are focused on non-emergency primary health care, treating conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, asthma and other chronic illnesses. There are also free-to-the-public monthly education classes and a community outreach program.
The Center recently partnered with Bay Discount Pharmacy to provide low-cost medications to the Center’s patients, as well as to the general public. The pharmacy, which is located in the Center, offers a price match guarantee, there is very little wait time and they offer FREE home delivery.
The Center also collaborates with two local medical training schools providing students with a variety of opportunities to serve their externship hours learning the real-world environment of a not-for-profit health care clinic.
The Center’s primary source of funding is through grants, in-kind donations and fund-raising events. Major funding over the past three years has been provided by the City of Clearwater Community Block Grant, Pinellas County Social Action Funding, Morton Plant Mease Foundation, Pinellas Community Foundation, Allegany Franciscan Ministries and the Clearwater Rotary Club.
On July 1st, 2011, the center’s name changed to the Willa Carson Health and Wellness Center© to make it easier for current and new patients to identify what the center offers and is about. The Center’s mission is: To provide culturally sensitive quality healthcare in a friendly environment and the Vision emphasis is: A healthy community where quality healthcare is accessible to all.
Tribute to Willa Livingston Carson by Michael Bilirakis in the Congressional Record
April 25, 2006
HONORING WILLA LIVINGSTON
HON. MICHAEL BILIRAKIS
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Mr. BILIRAKIS. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the life and legacy of a true community leader, Willa Carson, who passed away on April 14, 2006, at age 80.
Willa was born in St. Petersburg, Florida, and moved to New York City after marrying Ernest Carson. While in New York, Willa earned her practical nursing license and worked for years in the health care industry. In 1972, Willa returned to Florida, retiring in Clearwater with her husband. However, Willa always needed to help others and was unfulfilled with retirement, so she undertook a second career teaching her passion for nursing to others.
Willa is best known for founding the Greenwood Community Health Resources Center, which she established in 1995. In the beginning, Greenwood operated out of two apartments. Today, this tremendous facility provides free treatment for nearly 600 individuals monthly who have no insurance and little money to afford health care costs. This is especially impressive because the Center only is open three days a week and all the doctors and nurses volunteer their time and expertise. While I am very familiar with the generosity of our nation’s health care professionals, I know that this Center would not have been so successful without Willa’s tireless efforts to help the poorest in our society.
Last month, the Greenwood Community Health Resources Center was appropriately renamed after Willa Carson. However, this was a tribute Willa did not want or welcome. Humbly, she wanted the Center to be about helping others, not personal glorification.
Willa does not need the Health Resources Center to be renamed after her for her impact on this community to be realized. Her generosity will be reflected on the faces of the countless people that she has helped. I hope her family will take solace in knowing that, in heaven, Willa’s loving arms will be able to reach much further than Clearwater, Florida.
Mr. Speaker, our community truly is better off because of Mrs. Carson’s contributions. Her leadership, life and legacy are truly an inspiration to everyone. I’m honored to have known her and to have called her a friend. May her memory be eternal!