The impact one person can make

Rosalyn Hunter is retiring from the St. Petersburg Free Clinic after 39 years of service.

BY SHERYL ZEITLER, Contributor

ST. PETERSBURG — Rosalyn Hunter has been with the St. Petersburg Free Clinic for 39 years! More frequently known as Roz, she has a personality that is a magnet for good things. The growth the Free Clinic has experienced is a direct result of her determination, commitment to serving the community and endless optimism.

Retiring next month, Hunter started April 1, 1991, as a warehouse manager for the Free Clinic Food Bank and remained in that position for 21 years. She grew professionally from warehouse manager into the role of Food Bank program director.

Under her leadership, the Food Bank increased from having just a handful of distribution partners to 25 sites throughout Pinellas County. She found her work tremendously rewarding, describing it as “every day was a good day.”  Hunter loved serving in a program that helped to feed children, seniors and those experiencing homelessness in our neighborhoods.

“Roz is a loyal, hardworking, and dependable member of the St Petersburg Free Clinic. She is a terrific problem solver,” said Jane Egbert, former chief executive officer. “She not only understands and appreciates the very real needs of the individual she is helping but also knows how to successfully navigate the system to find successful solutions. She is supportive of her team members, brings a sense of perspective, and a delightful sense of humor to all around her.”

While warehouse manager at the Food Bank, Hunter was always looking for ways to make any donation work. She knew exactly what foods would be received well in different neighborhoods throughout the free clinic’s diverse communities.

Years ago, the USF Oceanography Program reached out with a donation of whole fish. It was a unique contribution that could not easily be distributed, as the fish needed to be cleaned and filleted. That didn’t stop Hunter.

She reached out to the elders that were often found at Graham Park, as she knew several of them could properly clean and fillet fish. This brought the community together as the elders found purpose in teaching younger members of the community. That day, families went home with fresh fish ready to be fried!

Hunter is clear about how much she has enjoyed working for the Free Clinic. She describes the most rewarding part of her 39-year-career to be, “Providing services to people without making them uncomfortable and making sure their quest for services is a seamless task.”

In Nov. 2005, a key contract supporting the work of the Food Bank was cut. At the time, Hunter thought she would leave the clinic, go to school, perhaps reinvent herself!  However, she was destined to develop a Drug Assistance Program for the Free Clinic’s Health Center.

Hunter not only survived the new job role, but she and the program also thrived. The Free Clinic Drug Assistance Program now provides a $3 million value annually in prescription drug assistance to those in need throughout our community.

Beth Houghton, another former chief executive officer, describes Hunter as her “mission touchstone,” as she was always willing to speak about the heart of the Free Clinic.

“In Roz’s last role at the Free Clinic, drug program coordinator, she was an insurmountable force. She knew each drug company, what they required and how to gather that info from our patients,” stated Houghton.

“I often laughed and said, ‘Roz just wouldn’t take no for an answer.’ As a result, she assured millions of dollars of much-needed pharmaceuticals got to our patient, keeping them healthy and vibrant.”

Hunter intends to continue serving her community once she retires. With 13 grandchildren living locally, she will be busy spoiling them while staying current on her reading list. During the pandemic’s lockdown days, she read more than 400 books and continues working her way down her lengthy list.

Current CEO, Jennifer Yeagley, shared, “You can see the impact Roz has had through the might and scope of our programs today.  Although she may no longer be working directly for the Free Clinic once retired, I look forward to seeing how she will continue to influence this community in so many positive ways! The Free Clinic is forever grateful to Roz Hunter.”

Hunter has been instrumental in the growth of St. Petersburg Free Clinic and has personally impacted thousands of our neighbors’ lives for the better.  The Free Clinic and this community are better off thanks to Hunter’s compassion, caring and willingness to serve.

She will be missed.

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