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Blessed, dedicated and the rent is paid

Jana Carpenter says it's been muy ocupado at La Clinica Guadalupana.

Very busy, indeed.

Patients have dragged themselves in the door, bruised and bloody, begging nurses in Spanish to please help. It hurts so much, they said.

There was the man who was bitten by a brown recluse spider, the fellow who fell off a roof and several patients thirsty and going blind from diabetes.

Carpenter shudders to think what would have become of the indigent Hispanic patients if the nonprofit clinic had been closed. They would have ended up at a hospital emergency room, or worse, they would not have sought treatment and died.

The clinic, which serves the city's uninsured Hispanic community, was recently close to death itself.

Founded by Peggy Gray and Peter Schweitzer as an outreach of St. Cecelia Catholic Church, the clinic was started on Dec. 12, 1995, on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, with just $50 and donated office space at a small building complex called Drew Gardens on Drew Street.

But at the end of last summer, the landlord shocked the clinic's staff by casting them out of the facility where they had operated rent-free for a decade.

It took until December for the outpatient medical organization to find a new home at 1000 Lakeview Road, Suite 4, in Clearwater.

It was blessed and dedicated in a ceremony a few weeks ago.

But the new landlord wanted a year's rent up front. Carpenter pleaded with her friends to donate money and was able to collect the entire $19,000 plus a little more.

"We have enough money to run the clinic for six months," she said.

Its annual budget is $112,000.

The leased space is a 2,000-square-foot former physician's office. It has three examination rooms, a pharmacy area and a classroom where patients can learn about good health habits and natural contraception methods in keeping with Catholic teachings.

It has a staff of 10 doctors, five nurses and two pharmacists, all of whom volunteer their time.

They treat patients every Monday through Thursday starting at 4 p.m.

Patients are required to make an appointment by Monday if they wish to be examined during a typical week.

Treatment and medications are free.

As a result of a story in the Times and subsequent TV news coverage, "we got catapulted into this notoriety," Carpenter said.

Now she just needs enough money to get the clinic through this summer and fall.

She said she's doing a lot of praying.

Eileen Schulte can be reached at (727) 445-4153 or schulte@sptimes.com.

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