Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Auction will help Clearwater Free Clinic fulfill the uninsured's medical needs

Artist Ernest C. Simmons of Dunedin has donated this piece to be auctioned tonight at the Clearwater Free Clinic’s fundraiser.


Artist Ernest C. Simmons of Dunedin has donated this piece to be auctioned tonight at the Clearwater Free Clinic’s fundraiser.

CLEARWATER — Life has come full circle for Dunedin's renowned bird artist Ernest C. Simmons.

At the beginning of his art career in the 1970s and '80s, he had little money but needed medical care and went to the Clearwater Free Clinic on N Fort Harrison Avenue, where he received care on several occasions.

Things have turned around for Simmons, whose artwork now fetches as much as $28,000 per piece and whose paintings can be seen on postcards, tote bags and T-shirts across the country.

Now, Simmons can afford to pay for medical care. But, to give back to the Clearwater Free Clinic, he is donating a $4,800 piece that will be auctioned at the clinic's seventh annual Martinis and Matisse fundraiser tonight.

"I didn't have health insurance and wasn't making a lot of money and struggling to make ends meet," Simmons said this week at his Dunedin studio. "It was amazing that you could go to this clinic and get treatment for free. It really helped me out."

The Clearwater Free Clinic was started in 1977 and provides medical care at no cost to those who do not qualify for government assistance and who cannot afford private medical care. Patients pay what they can. All the clinic's funding comes from private and civic donations and grants. There are no regular, state, local or federal government funds.

Today's fundraiser accounts for 25 percent of the nonprofit clinic's $450,000 operating budget, which provides $1.9 million worth of medical services, said Jeannie Shapiro, the clinic's executive director.

More than 100 volunteer physicians, nurses, paramedics, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and clerks assist patients.

In 1999, the clinic saw 6,850 patients. Last year, there were 13,699 patient visits.

"The face of the uninsured has changed," Shapiro said. "The perception of the free clinic patients has been one of homeless and indigent.

"Since our recent economic crisis, we are seeing people who had insurance and lost it. They are mostly people who don't make enough money to afford their health care."

Ted Kensil, 60, of Largo has been using the clinic for six years. He said the doctors have brought him through two bouts with cancer.

"They care," Kensil said. "They have sent me to, like, six specialists and given me, like, $500 a month in free medicine. I can't say enough about them. And it's not only to me. There are a lot of people who will say the same thing."

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at or (727) 445-4174.

. Fast facts

To learn more

The seventh annual Martinis and Matisse fundraiser is sold out, but donations to the clinic still are welcome.

Donations may be sent to: The Clearwater Free Clinic, 707 N Fort Harrison Ave., Clearwater, FL 33755

Phone: (727) 447-3041

Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Thursday. Appointments are required, by phone or in person, on the day you wish to be seen.

Auction will help Clearwater Free Clinic fulfill the uninsured's medical needs 01/22/10 [Last modified: Friday, January 22, 2010 8:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No. 21 USF Bulls roll over Temple to stay undefeated


    TAMPA — They emerged from Raymond James Stadium's southwest tunnel on the 11-month anniversary of their public humiliation at Temple.

    Bulls tailback Darius Tice, who rushes for 117 yards, is elated by his 47-yard run for a touchdown in the second quarter for a 10-0 lead.
  2. Fennelly: USF thrashes Temple to stay unbeaten; too bad not many saw it in person



    No. 21 USF ran its record to 4-0 Thursday night with some payback against Temple, a 43-7 trouncing, no contest, as if anyone cares, at least judging by the paltry crowd at Raymond James Stadium. Where was everybody?

    Bulls cornerback Deatrick Nichols (3) celebrates with teammates after making a defensive play during the first half.
  3. Former Ray Tim Beckham's over being traded, or is he?

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — As the Rays reunited Thursday with Tim Beckham for the first time since he was dealt July 31 to Baltimore, it became very clear that not everything in assessing the trade is as it appears.

    Tim Beckham, here in action Monday against the Red Sox, has hit .310, with 10 homers and 26 RBIs since going to the Orioles.
  4. Bucs probe how to fix deep-ball chances missed vs. Bears


    TAMPA — It was only minutes after the Bucs had demolished the Bears 29-7 Sunday when quarterback Jameis Winston tried one final time to connect with receiver DeSean Jackson.

    QB Jameis Winston says he’s focused on the deep-ball chances to DeSean Jackson he missed in the opener: “We left a lot out there.”
  5. Rays journal: Ugly first inning dooms Andriese, Rays against Orioles (w/video)

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — Rays manager Kevin Cash said before Thursday's game that RHP Matt Andriese was among the pitchers who would most benefit from a strong finish to the season.

    Matt Andriese has a tough first: hits to four of first five batters, leading to three runs, the only ones he gives up in six innings