Willa Carson tells the story of an African American citizen seeking health care who died while waiting at a bus stop. At that time, Carson made a personal commitment to bring a free, easily accessible clinic to the heart of the African American community in Clearwater, FL.
She worked tirelessly toward this goal meeting with Morton Plant Hospital officials, members of the Housing Authority, Zoning Boards, individuals and groups who might provide funding, and nurses and doctors who might help. The planning phase encompassed more than a year.
Ultimately, space was allocated in the North Greenwood area of Clearwater with two apartments that the Housing Authority and Morton Plant/Mease Hospital assisted with renovations to make the facility wheel chair accessible. Because of Carson’s tireless efforts, The North Greenwood Community Health Resource Center opened in May 1997.
Immediately after opening, Carson contacted the Florida Legislature for the appropriation of $300,000 to build a permanent facility for the North Greenwood Community Health Resource Center on city-owned Brownfield property. The Center moved into the new facilities in December 2000.
Currently the center serves an excess of 400 patients a month, and all services provided by the center are free. The center operates with multiple grants. There are only two paid staff members, the administrator and an Advanced Registered Nurse Practitioner. The rest of the staff members are all volunteers, which include, but are not limited to, five physicians, one advanced registered nurse practitioner, an acupuncturist, and registered nurses. Morton Plant/Mease Hospital provides laboratory services.
At 71 years of age, Willa Carson had the vision, determination, and willingness to work for available health care for people who lacked the means and transportation to access it. She has made her community a better place, has provided access to health care for many, and has shown what a true leader can do to bring about change. Carson is currently 78 years of age and still going strong.