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Volunteers praised for filling gap

Nearly 30,000 volunteers provided more than $35-million in goods and services to needy Floridians last year, from medical care to diapers, Gov. Lawton Chiles said Monday.

Chiles held a news conference to applaud the volunteers and attack lawmakers for cutting money for the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services.

"I don't know what we'd do without this tremendous service that we're getting," he said.

The budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 slashed spending for social services by $417-million and cut 400 HRS jobs.

HRS Secretary Ed Feaver said: "By fostering strong community and private sector support . . . we are able to stretch limited state dollars for health and social services at a time when the department's budget has been severely restricted."

Chiles said about 8,000 doctors, nurses and other health professionals in the Volunteer Health Care Provider Program of the Florida Medical Association provided 140,000 Floridians with free care worth more than $18-million.

He cited the 650 volunteers of Broward County's Helping Abused, Neglected and Dependent Youth program, which has donated $17,000 a year in scholarships to foster children, established a clothes bank that has helped 5,000 foster children, and provided $28,000 in emergency funding for food, medical care, electric bills, rent and clothing.

Other efforts include a Brevard County dental program that provided nearly $80,000 in free care, the Orlando area's Safe Summer Celebration HIV-AIDS awareness workshop for teens, Kiwanis Club immunization clinics, and a Gainesville program that pairs needy families with sponsors.

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