Celebrating our history of partnership and care


BY LASHANTE KEYS, Empath Health Community Outreach Specialist

ST. PETERSBURG — During Black History Month, we join together to honor the legacy of African Americans and their countless achievements that have impacted our world.

The Welch family comes from a long lineage of ministry and service in St. Petersburg. The family has worked for many years to ensure access to community services, including Suncoast Hospice and Empath Health care.

The late Elder Clarence Welch shared a passion for African-American families obtaining quality, compassionate care when facing a chronic or advanced illness or experiencing grief. He was a guiding force behind the building of our service center in south St. Petersburg, which opened at 3050 1st Ave. S in 2006.

Today, the site includes south county hospice care team operations, grief counseling, support groups, EPIC (Empath Partners in Care) with HIV testing, support groups and food and personal care pantry services as well as hosting various community gatherings.

Empath Health St Pete Svce Center, featured

“My dad was on the board of pastors for IMA (Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, Inc.) and the hospice board, said Elder Welch’s son Pastor Ricardo Welch shared. “The city was starting to do renovations and looking for sites and he suggested that south St. Pete would benefit from a hospice service center that could facilitate education on health and hospice care.

“It was hard for residents to get up north, especially those with no transportation. This building is a kind of tribute to all those who’ve succumbed to illness in our area. It’s becoming a landmark place for our culture and community.”

Establishing a dedicated south side location fostered greater community connection, agreed Chip Cosper, Suncoast Hospice south county regional program director and a longtime St. Petersburg resident.

“To me, that building says we’re in this community and here to serve you,” said Cosper. “It was designed for community use and a lot of community partners do use it. It’s a good place for events, like the Legacy Week Awards Dinner and Gospel Health Brunch. Some people come in for a brochure or to speak with someone about our services. Our goal is to come along beside them, wherever they are in life’s journey.”

Pastor Welch serves at the same church as his father did, focusing on community development and unification, cultural advances and economic and education opportunities. He and his family have continued to support Suncoast Hospice and benefit from our services.

“My cousin Ken Welch was on the hospice board but had to resign because of his schedule as a Pinellas County Commissioner,” said Welch. “My late uncle David Welch served on the St. Petersburg City Council and helped negotiate the creation of the Suncoast Hospice Care Center inside Bayfront hospital – he was able to use that care center for his final transition. The legacy keeps going.”

The family holds much love and appreciation for our care and support.

“The staff and volunteers were so great about everything they do with patients. The hospitality and graciousness they give to families are really comforting. It has been beneficial for our family as well as the community to have an organization like Suncoast Hospice to assist families and their loved ones in that time and with their grief management. My three daughters have passed and my three grandkids are getting help. All of us have had some kind of grief counseling as we’re trying to deal with it,” he shared.

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