Father Bill Collins began ministering to people living with HIV/AIDS in 1985 when he was appointed Chaplain to Imperial Point Hospital where he began his local ministry of service to people living with the virus. Two years later he founded The Poverello Food Bank and Thrift Shop. It opened in Pompano in the summer of 1987 and was only 1,800 square feet big. It’s mission: to help provide unavailable necessities to the growing number of men, women and children testing positive for the virus. Now almost 27 years later, Father Bill is 83 and still working. You can see him writing in the Poverello newsletters.

With 11 employees and more than 100 volunteers, Poverello CEO Thomas Smith said it’s those volunteers that has made the organization so successful. Today, Poverello serves more than 10,000 clients.

Over time, Smith said he hopes services like Poverello aren’t needed anymore.

“I hope that there will not be a need for [our] services due to the fact that there will be a cure for HIV/AIDS,” Smith said. But, “I’m sure that there are others that will be in need of our food pantry.”

Currently, the demand is still high, and Smith said Poverello is looking to open an additional thrift store sometime this year.

And it all started with the humble man affectionately known to the community as Father Bill.

NEXT: George Castrataro —Attorney & Activist
PREVIOUS: Elizabeth Schwartz - Attorney & Activist