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Local library a good place to find service projects

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I want to do something for my community, like getting people to donate food or clothes. But I don't know how to start or what to do. Can you help? —Judy, 18, Oxnard, Calif.

Good for you, Judy! One of the best resources out there is right under your nose: your local library. Ask the reference librarian if she has a few minutes to guide you with a project. Tell her you're looking for organizations to contact about starting a clothing or food drive, and ask if she has a directory of local charities. Or you can also check out volunteermatch.org to search for projects in your community.

When you find organizations that match your interests (like shelters, foster-care centers or the American Red Cross, for example), call and ask to speak with the person in charge of public affairs or community outreach. Then explain that you're a student looking to pitch in and would like to find out what would be the most useful thing for you to help with. Or sometimes the most convenient (and fun!) way to get involved is by joining a school club that's already volunteering; see your guidance counselor about finding the right one for you.

My closest friends and I sit together at lunch every day, and we always get into fights! I don't want to leave my group, but it's so annoying! What should I do? —Mary, 17, Aberdeen, S.D.

Friend fights are normal, but daily fights could be the sign of a bad habit that needs to be broken. So as corny as it sounds, rally your lunch group to not have any fights for a whole week.

Say, "Let's go five days without anyone fighting; when one of us is tempted to snap, stop, close your eyes, and hold your tongue!" Whatever they say (and they might just roll their eyes), respond with, "C'mon — let's just try it this week and see how it goes."

If you can go all week without fighting, it shows that your group can get along. (Bad habits need lots of practice to undo, so be patient.) And, of course, you can force yourself to take a break from the group and start sitting with other friends, at least for a few days. Absence can make your hearts grow fonder — and give you all time to cool off!

My best friend and I got into a huge fight a few days ago. I've been thinking about her and all the good times we've had together. We've also gone through some bad times together, too, and were there for each other then. I really miss her, but she won't answer my calls or e-mails. I don't know what to do. How can I get my BFF back? —Dana, 16, West Columbia, S.C.

Fights between close friends are so frustrating — most of the time, you cool off and realize that things escalated into drama for no good reason! So take heart: What's often needed for a friendship-fight to blow over is just time. Don't beat yourself up — you seem to be taking the initiative to make things better, and that's all you have control over anyway.

Give your friend one last call or e-mail. Say or write something like: "I understand that you want your space, and you deserve time to think about things. But as soon as you're ready to talk, I'd really like to work through this and make things better. I miss you, and I have a whole new appreciation for how special our friendship is!"

Then you'll have to wait for your best friend to come to you when she's ready. In the meantime, remember that it's OK for you to go out and have fun with other friends. It might even help you get your mind off of all this other drama!

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