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Week of events draws attention to plight of poor

With the holiday season just around the corner, the student-based UConnPIRG is gearing up to offer a helping hand - or a turkey dinner - to the needy.

The UConn Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness, part of a national event to bring attention to the plight of the homeless and hungry, features a sleepout on the Student Union Mall from 7 p.m. November 19 through 7 a.m. November 20, with speeches by state Rep. Denise Merrill, D-Mansfield, and representatives from local soup kitchens and homeless shelters. The week's efforts also kick-off a campaign to raise money to provide complete Thanksgiving dinners for 75 area families.

The group also will sponsor a clothing drive, a postcard drive in support of proposed federal legislation giving voting rights to homeless people, and visits to area shelters and soup kitchens.

The week began November 12, when the group had their annual Hunger Banquet, a dinner designed to educate guests about the inequalities that exist around the globe. Guests entered a lottery to determine whether they had a Third World experience, a Second World dinner, or a plush, American meal. The number of people in each group was based on the number of people in the world in each group - a statistic that found two-thirds of last week's guests eating with their hands as they sat on the floor of the Hillel Center. The dinner, cosponsored by UConnPIRG, Habitat for Humanity, Hillel, the Latino Students Association, the Student Union Board of Governors, the Center for Community Outreach and Phi Sigma Pi, attracted 120 people.

UConnPIRG - the UConn Public Interest Research Group - is the local branch of a national organization that works to keep hunger, the environment, political corruption, water conservation, pollution and other issues in the forefront. They annually volunteer hundreds of hours to social and educational causes.

To donate clothing, food or money to the group's holiday collections, call (860) 486-5002.