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Allen L. Palmquist

Reverend Allen Lee Palmquist, 79, of Belleair Bluffs, Florida, passed into eternity on Saturday, January 29, 2022.  Al, as he was known, married Gayle Helen Sager on July 19, 1963. They were married for 58 years. The couple had two children, Julie Gayle Long and Richard Allen Palmquist (known as Rick). They had three grandsons: Wade Palmquist, Tyler Long, and Jakin Long.  Al loved his family deeply and wanted them by his side through life whenever possible. He loved God, people, and living life with courage…always looking for the best way to be a hero to anyone who may have needed one…ever searching for more ways to help those in need.  Al was often on-the-go, but could also often be found taking a few moments for a cup of coffee or a bite of pizza with someone he cared about.

Al and Gayle worked for David Wilkerson at Teen Challenge, in Brooklyn, New York in the late 1960s, right after finishing college at Bethany Global University, where Al earned a degree and ministerial credentials. He was later ordained as a minister in the Assemblies of God as well.

From New York, the couple moved back to their home state of Minnesota and Al joined the Minneapolis police department, where he worked in the 3rd precinct as a street cop, then as a negotiator on SWAT, then later as a detective and one of the heads of the Vice department. With the Minneapolis mayor and police chief behind him, Al and a team of ministers, chaplains, counselors, and cops opened a rehabilitation center called Midwest Challenge. This Christian program was highly successful, with a 98% cure rate, seeing hundreds of lives restored and drug addicts set free. Most graduates found new life in Christ and learned life and work skills during their stay at this residential recovery program. Midwest Challenge soon grew into a 12 house program. It was offered free of charge to anyone wanting to get their life on track.

Reverend Palmquist spoke in churches and at various civic meetings, training lay people to identify drug addiction, inspiring others in all walks of life, and raising funds to keep the program running. He authored or co-authored several books including, “The Drug Bug,” Miracle at City Hall,” “Holy Smokies,” “The Minnesota Connection,” “The Love Factor,” “99 Ways to Protect Your Children from Molesters, Pimps, and Pornographers,” and others.  Later, Al served on a Federal task force on behalf of missing and exploited children. In the 1970s, he became a leading expert in uncovering the evils of the sex trade in our nation…especially that of a “pipeline” of prostitution operating between the Midwest and New York City.  He earned the title of “Detective of the Year” for his work, in addition to several other awards an recognitions throughout his lifetime.

Al’s books sold over 20 million copies with “The Minnesota Connection” becoming a New York Times best seller.  This book was influential in exposing the sex trade “pipeline,” and Al became a much sought after talk show guest, appearing on “The Phil Donahue Show”, “Good Morning America”, “The 700 Club”, “The PTL Club,” and many more!  He was passionate about putting an end to the sex trade and protecting families from its resulting pain by teaching others how to avoid loosing children to its grip and by continuing to rescue young men and women already trapped in it.  Many articles were written about his work, and he even appeared on the cover of “People” Magazine.

Al, along with partners and volunteers, opened a series of Safehouses, where those in the clutches of prostitution could find refuge and healing. These were primarily in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but expanded into Atlanta and Florida as well. Having found a tremendous need in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, in 1982, Al moved his family to this area and opened Safehouse Inc., establishing and continuing both residential and out-patient recovery and counseling in the Clearwater/Largo area of Pinellas County. He also helped establish a screen printing business, which his son, Rick, took over (now called Gold Medal Graphics). Rick continues to provide excellent service in graphic design and screen printing and has primarily served the athletic, church, restaurant, and business community for over 20 years.

In 2000 to 2002, Reverend Palmquist served as the lead pastor at Crossover Church in Tampa Florida.  This church partnered with Safehouse, Inc. to continue the heart of its mission. Crossover Church and Safehouse maintained a large focus on reaching people who lived in various, large housing authority “project” apartment communities in Tampa, where the two partnering ministries kept a consistent personal presence for many years, utilizing teams of volunteers to provided various means of outreach and support, including specialized kids’ programs, counseling and recovery services, providing for basic needs such as food and clothing, assessing individualized needs and connecting people to the services they most needed, and always offering a “come-as-you-are” approach in their regular church services, where many found authentic connection to the congregation and to God.

Al’s very close friend, founder and original pastor of Crossover Church continues today to serve as a pastor at Safehouse Outreach in Atlanta, GA., where the son of one of Al’s closest friends directs it today. Safehouse Outreach originally gleaned at least some of its inspiration from Al and the mission of Safehouse, Inc., and it is now an impressive and thriving ministry that serves to inspire Al’s family right back, as well as many others who seek training and inspiration from what they do also.  Crossover Church continued to thrive under its succeeding leadership, and remains honored friends of Al’s family and all Safehouse leadership.  The current pastor of Crossover Church has developed a “Love Our City” campaign and hosts many forms of outreach and connection in Tampa today, as well as offering training and equipping for other churches and leaders around the world who would like to have a similar impact on their communities.  Many successful ministries, pastors, and leaders have been inspired by or directly come out of the models of both Safehouse, Inc. and Crossover Church.

Pastor Al and wife, Gayle, went on to serve as “Stephen Ministers” at Saint Paul United Methodist Church in Largo, Florida.  Around 2012, Al enjoyed serving as Pastor of the “Celebrate Recovery” ministry at Pathways Church of Largo, Florida.  Al and Gayle then came full circle, and settled in at the original church he and his family called home when they first arrived in Florida. Clearwater First Assembly of God (now called Connect Church) continues to be called their original Florida “home” by the Palmquist family.  Al enjoyed much of the last decade or so of his time on this side of heaven serving as Pastor of Evangelism at Clearwater First.  He served with gusto as leader of the church’s Celebrate Recovery program, co-pastor and leader of their Clearwater Dream Center, then of the ministry at the center of his heart that he called, “Church Under the Oaks,” a casual, come-as-you-are outdoor church service, outreach and very busy food pantry ministry.  Al married these ministries with Safehouse and continued to focus on the rescue and recovery of those most vulnerable.  In a typical week for he and the Dream Center team, they could be found pulling a homeless man of a park bench or out of the woods and connecting him to the residential discipleship program housed at this church.  They daily connected with and discipled many people in the throws of poverty, addiction, prostitution and other challenges, loved them with the love of God and helped them walk a path to wholeness and freedom.

When Clearwater First Assembly restructured and sold the portion of property on which the food ministry was housed, the leadership agreed to partner with Liberty Worship Center just up the road, and move all of it’s food donation partnerships with local grocery stores and “Feeding America” to this location.  Al enjoyed the honor of continuing as a lay pastor at this church and being a direct part of picking up and then giving away thousands of pounds of food each week, as well as serving as a part of the team offering come-as-you-are services, prayer and counseling to anyone desiring it.  Al partnered with this ministry by helping to place recovering addicts in need of further recovery and discipleship into Liberty’s residential program also.  Al personally continued to disciple and love recovering addicts, spending his life in behalf of the poor and oppressed as Isaiah 58:10 describes.  He and Gayle also enjoyed hosting weekly small groups in their home until just before 2021.

Al’s ministry always had a heavy emphasis on preventing kids from falling into the grip of addiction or prostitution.  For over 30 years, a concentrated effort to connect with and minister directly to kids and youth considered at “high risk” for experiencing these and other life-diminishing challenges grew under the direction of his daughter, Julie Long, who developed an arm of Safehouse called Destiny’s Hope Ministries.  Having ministered beside her dad much of her entire life, Al always told his daughter that one day she would run Safehouse.  Knowing the call of God on her own life, Julie was obedient to the Lord and has begun the process of stepping into the role of director of Safehouse Inc.  She asks that you pray for her in this and the future endeavors of Safehouse.  Al’s presence in our lives and in ministry will be greatly missed, but we know that his legacy of love lives on, through Christ, in his family and in the hearts and lives of many whom he touched!

Pastor Al was known for his sense of humor, straight forward approach to people and life, and his love for animals. He made just about anyone he encountered smile or laugh and almost always had a treat for any animal who met him as well. Big Al (his other alias), was also known for his love of the games of basketball, baseball and softball. Over his lifetime, he played on many winning teams in every community he lived in. He also coached little league, umpired, and held director positions in Florida ISA and NSA girls’ softball, organizing and running hundreds of tournaments for both!  Though there is no mention of baseball or dogs in Heaven, it was Al’s hope to be reunited with all of the dogs he loved and to play in the “Big-inning” with all of his friends residing with the Lord in eternity!


In lieu of flowers, the Palmquist family has requested that donations can be made to the Al Palmquist Memorial Fund to help make ministerial training/college possible for Al’s grandchildren. Contributions can be made in his memory here GoFundMe,

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