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It is an organization considered life saving.

When times are tough and people living with the HIV virus are down on their luck it is a place to go for important nutrition. Poverello’s services make a difference in the community, said employees, volunteers and clients.

“You can see the difference we make in people’s lives every day,” said Mario Rosairo, Facilities Manager.

Rosairo and his family moved to South Florida from New York decades ago and he has witnessed, first-hand, the effects of Poverello on the community. From thrift store to food pantry and now the emergence of wellness facilities, Poverello is a tool for people living with HIV/AIDS to get through difficult times while also being a fun outlet for bargain shoppers.

“I got a great set of dishes there for just $15,” said Nelson Alt, a Pompano Beach resident.

Alt was finishing his purchases when approached by SFGN for an interview. A senior gay man, Alt said he enjoys thrift store shopping and visits Poverello weekly. The dishes, are just one of many bargains, Alt has discovered.

“I got a great vintage stereo receiver for just forty bucks,” Alt said. The receiver has greatly improved his home stereo system, said Alt, a music lover.

Music is sure to fill the Sawgrass Lanes for Poverello’s silver anniversary bowl-a-thon as teams compete in a friendly night out. The Aug. 15 event was sold out three weeks in advance, said Kevin Clevenger, Events Coordinator.

Poverello was started by clergyman Father William F. Collins, who fed HIV positive individuals at the hospital out of the back of his car. Twenty-five years later, Poverello is a social enterprise that provides food and other essentials to people living with HIV/AIDS.

“It changes their life,” said Terry Sommerville, a volunteer at the Poverello food pantry. “I’ve seen the smile on their face when they leave here with their care bags.”

People come to Poverello hungry and from all stages in their battle with HIV/AIDS. Sommerville fought back tears as he described some of those in need.

“You can tell whose wasted and who’s not,” Sommerville said.

Poverello serves more than 2,600 clients – a herculean task for an operation of just 14 full-time staff members. However, it is volunteers like Sommerville who help fulfill the organization’s mission. Clevenger estimates there to be upwards of 150 active volunteers at Poverello spread out over the food pantry, thrift store and wellness center.

“The backbone of Poverello is the quality of its volunteer/client relationships,” Father Collins declares on the Poverello website. “Perhaps more than any other illness, HIV/AIDS challenges human relationships most deeply. It causes us to evaluate our attitudes regarding morality, sexuality and how we judge one another.”

For many newly diagnosed HIV patients, seeking care is a daunting task. At Poverello, help is there for those who want it.

“This can be used as a stepping stone,” said L.J. McHugh, a senior administrative assistant. “It does not have to be a lifestyle.”

For those employed at Poverello, it is a job. Workers often drive trucks and deliver furniture from the thrift shop and pick up goods to be donated. Poverello’s center in Wilton Manors encompasses more than eight thousand square feet. Plans are in the works, Clevenger said, for a second facility in Broward County.

“It is fulfilling to run an organization that actually does something,” Rosairo said. “You see where the money goes.”

To qualify as a Poverello client, individuals must be in the Ryan White Part A federal government program and be classified with earnings of 15 percent below the federal poverty guidelines. Government officials routinely are on site in Wilton Manors to assess the public’s needs.

Additionally, Poverello offers estate planning services for tax deductible giving and has an online eBay affiliate where unique items are auctioned off daily.

For more information, visit or call 954-561-3663.

Poverello Hopes to Strike it Big at This Year’s Bowl-A-Thon

By Denise Royal

Have a little extra time to spare? Poverello hopes you can come out and play at its Bowling to Fight Hunger fundraiser. It will be held on Saturday, August 15. It’s the event’s 25th anniversary.

Since 1990, the event has grown exponentially. Back then participants took up 22 lanes. Now the Bowl-A-Thon is held at Sawgrass Lanes in Tamarac to accommodate a bigger crowd bowling across 56 lanes.

Jo Anne McCann’s team “Bad News Bowlers” hopes to strike out on one of those lanes. Her team and at least 8 others are sponsored by Sidelines in Wilton Manors.

“This is my second time being involved with this fundraiser,” she said. “It is such a fun event. Part of the fun is the friendly competition among the teams; now I am pretty certain that our Bad News Bowlers’ team will not win bragging rights with the scores, that’s why we are committed to do our best with the fundraising part of the challenge,” McCann said.

Last year Poverello raised $68,000. This year they hope to raise at least $75,000. The money raised will be used to provide Poverello’s pantry the ability to provide lifesaving services to its clients.

But if bowling isn’t how you roll, there are many other ways to help.

“People can register to bowl, create a team or become a virtual bowler. If you are a business, you can sponsor the event, or donate goods and services for our silent auction/raffle items which account for a good portion of the $75,000 goal,” said Poverello’s Event Coordinator Kevin Clevenger.

Due to the popularity of the bowl-a-thon, Poverello had to move the event from Manors Lanes in Wilton Manors to the Sawgrass Lanes in Tamarac, in order to accommodate the growing event. The move westward is also a sign of Poverello’s commitment to serve all of Broward County.

It’s the work done by Poverello that inspired McCann to get involved. “One of the best reasons why I feel good about giving the time and efforts specifically to the Poverello charity is that it is all about our community helping our community. So many times we donate to very large national causes, which are also very important, but knowing that a $20 donation will provide up to 12 nutritious meals to those in need here in our community is great. So as my five member team reaches our goal of $1,000 we know we will provide up to 600 meals. That feels good.” McCann said.

With just a couple of weeks to go, 57 teams have raised more than $31,785.
Visit for more information.

The Aug. 15 Bowl-A-Thon “Bowling To Fight Hunger” is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Sawgrass Lanes, 8501 North University Drive, Tamarac, Florida 33321. The event has set a fundraising goal of $75,000.