The Poverello Center has a rich and intriguing history. The name, our founder, the richness of community involvement and engagement with volunteers all have fascinating elements worth exploring.
What’s in a Name?
Il Poverello is the nickname associated with St Francis of Assisi. Founder of the Franciscan Order, born at Assisi in Umbria, in 1181 or 1182 — the exact year is uncertain, but he died there, 3 October 1226. Canonized on July 16, 1228. He worked against great odds including lack of resources to help the less fortunate.
Saint Francis of Assisi abandoned a life of luxury for a life devoted to Christianity after reportedly hearing the voice of God, who commanded him to rebuild the Christian church and live in poverty. He is the patron saint of animals and the patron saint for ecologists. Il Poverello is translated, the poor little one.
Our Founder Father Bill Collins was a Franciscan priest. He was part of the Friars Minor Capuchin (O.F.M. Cap.) which consists of religious and lay men and women who try to emulate St. Francis’s spirit by performing works of teaching, charity, and social service.
Against all odds, Father Bill and his group of volunteers helped feed people in the 80’s who were dying of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). The stigma was great, resources few, but he worked tirelessly to gain the resources to show love to those who at the time knew little hope. His affinity for Il Poverello led to the organization’s name, The Poverello Center.
Founded in 1987 by Father Bill Collins (1931-2017) and his dedicated group of volunteers, the goal was to feed people who were dying alone and rejected by society in large numbers with complications from AIDS. The crisis was so devastating, and he performed so many last rites, that he began to keep a “book of names” so that the community would not forget how many died and who they were. Sadly, that book was lost to time so we must remember those who’ve passed in our hearts.
Today, Poverello continues by helping the poor and sick to “eat well.” With HIV as a chronic condition, our program has better outcomes (Viral suppression rate of 89.28%) than either our local doctor’s offices or the current national average (49%). We now provide food as medicine to people with Cardiac and Kidney problems as well as those with glycemic disorders, Cancer or other serious illnesses. Each year more than 3500 people & families needing support come to Poverello to select medically appropriate grocery items from our specialized curated food and receive key nutritional information from our nutritionist.
The Mission statement was updated as part of our strategic planning in 2016 to “provide nutritious food, services and basic living essentials with the highest degree of understanding, respect and love for individuals living with critical and chronic illnesses Including HIV, in South Florida.”
From the beginning of the food pantry til now at the Eat Well Center, the Community has been a key factor in our provision of food to those with serious illness. Take a look at our community partnerships page to see the depth and richness of those who help us accomplish what we do everyday for others. Food donations, financial donations and volunteer time are always welcome.
Since the first thrift store opened on McNab Road in Pompano Beach off US 1, Volunteers have been the backbone of our organization. They are involved in every aspect of what we do. Take a look back at some of the photos we’ve placed here and on our social media accounts to see if you find yourself or someone you care about, caring for others. We still need and utilize volunteers today.