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Member Spotlight: Merline Barton Community Health Care Advocate At The Thelma Gibson Health Initiative

By: Marcia Giordano Hansen, Esq., The Hansen Law Firm, P.A.

M-Barton-Headshot-smMerline Barton is a stalwart advocate for the Coconut Grove community at large, dedicating decades of her life to its development and assistance to its under-served populations. Originating from Jamaica and educated in her home country and Manhattan, Ms. Barton was recruited to Florida by Barnett Bank of South Florida where she served as a Human Services Administrator. She went on to work for the Coconut Grove Local Development Corporation as the project coordinator for Grove Point I and II, which is an affordable housing project on the Grand Avenue Corridor.

It was with the Coconut Grove Local Development Corporation where she saw the desperate need of many of the residents in Coconut Grove for assistance with health care. Seeing this need and inspired by the work of Ms. Thelma Gibson, Ms. Barton decided to do something about the problems she faced and co-founded The Thelma Gibson Health Initiative, Inc. (TGHI) eleven years ago. As president of this organization, Ms. Barton’s mission is to answer the overwhelming and significantly under-served health needs of the residents of West Coconut Grove, South Miami and other pockets within Miami-Dade. The TGHI offers three core programs: 1) Health Advocacy for At Risk Minority Seniors, 2) Youth Violence Prevention Programs, and 3) HIV/AIDS and Substance Abuse Testing and Counseling.

Ms. Barton’s unfaltering dedication and charitable work towards the health needs of the underprivileged has not gone unnoticed by her adopted community of Miami. In 2010, Merline won the prestigious General Mills Feeding Dreams Champion for Miami-Dade County Award. This award recognizes local heroes who have devoted their lives to helping others, nurturing their communities and charting a better future. Ms. Barton was also recently featured in Caribbean Today’s Celebrating Jamaica’s 50th as one of the 50 outstanding Jamaicans making a positive impact in South Florida. She also received the Legacy Award as one of the 50 most powerful and influential Black business leaders of 2012.

The Women’s Chamber is proud to highlight Ms. Barton’s work with the TGHI, which continues the dedication and commitment to the community of our founder, Ms. Thelma Gibson. We look forward to sharing more information about the TGHI at our upcoming Thelma Gibson Award and Installation event on Thursday, January 22, 2015 at the Rusty Pelican.

To learn more about Merline Barton and The Thelma Gibson Health Initiative, click here.

Things You Ought to Know About Merline Barton:

  • What do you never leave the house without? My appointment book.
  • How do you reconnect with yourself? I go to the beach or enjoy a good book with a nice glass of wine.
  • What are your hobbies? Gardening.
  • Who inspires you? Ms. Thelma Gibson, of course!
  • What’s on your nightstand? My brother’s newly published book, “The Jamaicans – Children of God in the Promised Land”.
  • Favorite place for a power lunch or breakfast? Green Street Café, Coconut Grove.