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Take plunge into "we' instead of "me'

Do you ever wonder how you can help your community? I know I did.

I am a freshman at the University of Notre Dame and I recently participated in the university's Urban Plunge Program. Another student and I were immersed for 48 hours in St. Petersburg's urban programs to fight poverty. We worked at the St. Petersburg Free Clinic for two days and spent both nights at the Women's Residence. There we witnessed people with compassion enthusiastically helping their community and their fellow citizens daily.

The St. Petersburg Free Clinic is composed of seven parts that range from free medical care to housing for the homeless to assistance to those who just need a helping hand.

The medical clinic gives free health care, prescription drugs and vaccines to those in need. Beacon House is the men's shelter, which furnishes a warm bed for just $5 a night.

The Women's Residence is transitional living for women without children and provides the resources and assistance they need to be able to provide for themselves in the future. All residents must work and do a daily chore. Both shelters also prepare three meals a day for residents.

We Help provides services for all who come. It can be just a bag of food, help to find a job, or counseling. The clinic helps many people every year through its motto, "It doesn't take a whole lot but it does take some . . ."

Though you may not have 48 hours to plunge into the programs, you still can help. Most places always need volunteers, even if it is only an hour every month. You can also write to your representatives in Congress and urge them to stop passing legislation that reduces funding for social welfare programs. You can donate food, such as cereals and canned meats, to local shelters and churches. Also, monetary donations are greatly appreciated.

The St. Petersburg Free Clinic is able to help others because of your generous private donations. For information, call the clinic at (727) 821-1200 or write to 863 Third Ave. N, St. Petersburg, FL 33701.

Lisa Demidovich, who grew up in Lakeland, is a freshman at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., and plans to double-major in economics and Russian with a concentration in public service.