About TGHI

TGHI Mission

Dedicated to improving lives in low-income neighborhoods with programs for critical needs, better health, new skills, jobs, housing and economic stability.

About TGHI

Since inception in 2000 TGHI has been fighting the effects of poverty in communities where 1 in 4 families battle poverty, illiteracy, drug dependency, HIV, delinquency, teen pregnancy, gangs, crime and hopelessness. The initial focus of the Health Initiative was to reduce HIV and substance abuse in the West Grove, South Miami, and Coral Gables, and to help residents find resources for critical living problems with a staff of Master’s-level Counselors and Clinical Social Workers. Within a few years, the agency added programs to help families with education, teen violence, and social and life skills. Recently TGHI has added job training and placement for all ages in our CANTEEN Jobs Program, and our Passport Curriculum for Practical Skills. Plans are underway to replicate the Canteen Jobs Program and Passport Curriculum in more locations in Miami-Dade County.

TGHI employs a caring and experienced group of professionals including Masters Level Counselors, Certified Behavior Analysts, Case Managers, and Vocational Training Staff. We are dedicated to moving each client forward towards healthy, more skilled, and better organized lives, helping them find jobs which can lead to a career and a successful life in the community of their choice.

Merline Barton | Founder and President

Born and educated in Jamaica and later in Manhattan, NY, Mrs. Merline Barton moved to Miami and devoted many years to the affordable housing industry in Coconut Grove. In the late 1990’s she saw the desperate need for social services and health care in Coconut Grove to combat poverty and the rising HIV and substance abuse epidemics. With the support and encouragement of Thelma Gibson, she founded a non-profit in 2000 to address these needs, the Thelma Gibson Health Initiative, Inc.

Mrs. Barton brings a caring and professional energy and voice to her work, and has earned much recognition for her leadership and dedication to the poor in Miami-Dade County. At TGHI she has developed a continuum of programs to address not only critical health issues, but programs to help clients break the poverty cycle and build a successful life in their chosen community.

Thelma Vernell Anderson Gibson | Founding Sponsor and Namesake

Thelma Vernell Anderson Gibson was born in 1927 and grew up in Coconut Grove. She pursued an extensive formal education in nursing, and established herself as a leader in her field during her 33-year career in nursing and nursing education. For more than 50 years she has been an eloquent spokesperson and advocate for education, mental and physical health, community leadership, and volunteer community service in Miami-Dade County. She has received praise and countless awards for her leadership. In 1984, she founded and nurtured Miami-Dade’s first Women’s Chamber of Commerce. In 1994 she served as an Interim City Commissioner for City of Miami, and in 2000 helped establish TGHI where she still sits on the Board of Directors.


TGHI partners with schools, colleges, neighborhood housing agencies, legal support entities and others to provide non-credit classes and  administrative support. Interns from UM School of Nursing & Public Health teach nutrition and health, and help with data collection and case management. Miami-Dade College provides non-degree practical reading and math classes at the Gibson Educational Center on Grand Avenue.  Popular Community Bank provides instruction in banking, budgeting and credit. Other partners provide funding to improve the social and organizational skills needed for jobs advancement and economic stability.

Allegany Franciscan Ministries, Inc.
Alliance for Aging, Inc.
Children’s Trust
City of Miami
City of South Miami
Community Health Industries of South Florida
Dunspaugh-Dalton Foundation

Miami Foundation
Miami-Dade County
Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office,
Denise Moon Memorial Fund
Popular Community Bank
Related Group
Rotary Club of Coconut Grove
University of Miami School of Nursing

TGHI serves low-income communities where 1 in 4 families battle poverty, illiteracy, drug dependency, HIV, delinquency, teen pregnancy, gangs, crime and hopelessness.

TGHI provides a pathway to a better life.

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