In 2008, 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. Two 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 16,000 meals have been served annually.
Here are some historical milestones since our founding.
2021 – CO! enters into lease agreement for 2nd tiny home
2020 – Celebrate Outreach!’s weekly Saturday Breakfast and partner Sunday Dinner move to new location at Praise the Lord Outreach Ministries in South St Petersburg; after Covid-19 pandemic begins, there is a 100% increase in number of people served.
2019 – Tiny Homes for Homeless Veterans receives $10,000 grant from Duke Energy; Celebrate Outreach! begins serving weekly Saturday Breakfasts and partner Sunday Dinners in a downtown St Petersburg parking lot after losing access to its previous host church building; this continues for 10 months rain or shine.
2018 – Groundbreaking for Building Tiny Homes for Homeless Veterans’ first Tiny Home
2017 – Celebrate Outreach! holds its first of many Drag Queen Bingo fundraisers, this one at Hamburger Mary’s in the Tyrone area of St. Petersburg. Celebrate Outreach! holds its first fundraiser to benefit the Tiny Homes Project – an authentic Puerto Rican Pig Roast at the Unitarian Universalist Church of St. Petersburg.
2016 – Celebrate Outreach! partners with the University of South Florida School of Architecture & Community Design to form the Building Tiny Homes for Homeless Veterans collaboration.
2015 – Mayor Rick Kriseman of St. Petersburg attends one of Celebrate Outreach!’s events for the first of many times – this time he is the speaker at one of our public Education Forums; Celebrate Outreach!’s first annual “Still No Room in the Inn” Christmas Caroling Walk is held in downtown St Petersburg.
2014 – Celebrate Outreach! holds the first of 12 Community Education Forums in the next 3 years, targeted to an audience of homeless service providers, social workers, clergy, police officers, teachers, and others who work directly with the homeless.
2012 – Celebrate Outreach! holds a Homelessness and LGBT Youth Workshop – targeted to homeless service providers, social workers, clergy, police officers, teachers, and others who work directly with homeless youths.
2011 – Celebrate Outreach! conducts its second Concrete Solutions to End Homelessness 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 its first Concrete Solutions to End Homelessness Conference; weekly Sunday evening meal service begins; annual Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinner services begin
2008 – Celebrate Outreach! is founded; weekly Friday evening and Saturday morning meal services begin; hosts first annual Homeless Persons Memorial Service
Celebrate Outreach! volunteers serving free breakfast at Trinity Church.