Downtown Tampa’s Portico celebrates one-year anniversary

Published June 3
Updated June 7

A year ago, Hyde Park United Methodist Church opened a gathering place in the heart of downtown Tampa.

A sculpture depicting Jesus as homeless and sleeping on a park bench sits outside its entry doors.

More than a house of worship, this "church campus" named the Portico serves the community as a haven for artists, and a social venue and link to community service organizations. It also offers refuge and resources to area homeless. The Portico Café employs five formerly homeless people working toward self-sufficiency and operates a workforce housing program.

The Portico will celebrate its first anniversary with Hope Shines Bright, a free concert and benefit June 16.

Any donations will go toward the Portico’s homeless initiatives and work with Love INC of Metro Tampa, which helps Tampa churches mobilize efforts to help people in need.

Featured performing artists are Cody Austin, Emily Righter, Won Cho, Kyong Cho, Vanessa Rodriguez, Michael Fennelly and Scott Lilly. The vocalists and pianists will perform classical religious music, contemporary Christian and songs, as well as spirituals. The event will also include an art gallery featuring works by Curtis Whitwam and Maria Ortiz.

The idea for Hope Shines Bright originated with Lilly, a Hyde Park United Methodist member and Tampa lawyer, said Portico pastor Justin LaRosa.

"Scott’s passion, giftedness and generosity were the driving factors," LaRosa said. "He wanted to do something to help the Portico. Artistic expression is part of who we are, so this event is right in the Portico’s lane."

Financial contributions from the community make a real difference, LaRosa said. The Portico helps people get off the street and into housing. The venue hosts Moms in Action, Civil Conversation and weekly meditations groups. Proceeds from the Café go directly to outreach efforts. Several event spaces at the Portico are available to rent for weddings, parties and meetings.

"Every time someone buys something at the Portico Café or reserves a space at the Portico, they are helping get people onto ladders and into beds," LaRosa said. "The waves of goodness ripple out and positively impact people."

The Portico is located at 1001 N Florida Ave., Tampa. Church services are offered at 5:30 p.m. Sundays in the historic renovated Portico Chapel. The Café is open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. For more information on Hope Shine Bright and other events, visit hydeparkumc.org.

Contact Sarah Whitman at [email protected]

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