June 2, 2016

Looking back: Our Narrative History

The Well’s purpose is to serve both those who suffer from material poverty and those who suffer from spiritual poverty. The Well is a community who has been operating a space where anyone in Tampa can come and have their material needs met, but also find what Dorothy Day refers to as “food for the soul.” Rather than simply offering a menu of services and volunteer opportunities, we endeavor to connect people relationally and create a community where members of all ages, races and economic backgrounds can serve and learn from each other. In all of these interactions, we seek to intentionally cultivate dignity, industry, creativity and community.

While we serve the immediate needs of the most vulnerable in our city on a daily basis, we also call our entire city toward a future of cooperation, peace and abundance. Just as we embrace the works of mercy, we simultaneously affirm every individual’s responsibility for and stewardship of their time, talents and material wealth. Everything we do is based on this belief, that a better future for our city is not only possible, but is promised to us as we fulfill together our responsibility to be better neighbors.
Headquartered on Florida Avenue in the Tampa Heights neighborhood, The Well draws thousands of guests, volunteers and visitors every year. We also rely on support from throughout the broader Tampa Bay area, from businesses, civic organizations, churches, as well as other ministries.

This work began in 2004 with the formation of the Lake House, an intentional Christian community located in ybor heights, less than a mile from the Well’s current center. In the years that followed our efforts to simply be Christian and love our neighbors led to the establishment of a house church gathering with friends made in the neighborhood as well as other friends from the many different arenas in our lives like work and school.

It was in those meetings that some who were looking apply what they were learning asked a few others there who were living on the street for ideas and The Banquet, our thursday night community dinner was born in 2008. That same year the Lake House community began aggressively opening its doors to those we met at our meals to share our shower, washing machine, couches, etc. We also began the Tampa Eden Project’s first community garden and launched our monthly open mic/potluck known as the conscious party.

It was 2009 when the Underground moved to 7th avenue and offered our community a space in the building to open our first Family Room and Free Market. As our community grew in capacity and size and as we encountered other needs we did our best to respond as we could. We met many who found housing in the Good Samaritan Inn and so in 2010 a team of us started our Tuesday night meal that we affectionately call “The Good.”

At this point our hands were more than full and we stayed dedicated to building our community and serving in these ways that we had committed ourselves to for the following several years as we maintained a growing presence in the Underground’s space. We are proud to say that The Lake House community, The Banquet, The Tampa Eden Project, The Conscious Party, The Good, The Free Market, and The Family Room are all still operating today.

In 2014 the Well Incorporated and leased the building at 3023 N Florida Ave. where we are still headquartered today. Since moving into our own space we have built many gardens and installed and aquaponics system where we have been learning to raise Tilapia and produce. We also planted a bike co-op known as the ReCycle Bin where neighbors without transportation can come to build their own bike. The move also put us into the heart of need and tampa and we more than quadrupled the number of guests that we were seeing on a daily basis. We have since been approved as a 501C3 non-profit, leased our first house for a pilot housing project, started a lawn business, and developed many wonderful partnerships with schools, churches, grocery stores, restaurants, and others throughout our city.

Since we work with neighbors that are not always wanted or loved we, as a community, have also faced some opposition. That being the case, we have still built a really solid reputation as a loving and sacrificial community that works very hard and leverages every resource available to our shared vision of meeting needs, building bridges, and to see our city made whole.

Join us in pursuit of this shared vision for Tampa, and work with us to build a better future for all of our neighbors.

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