Group to fight drugs through pride NORTH COUNTY -- Linthicum * Ferndale * Brooklyn Park * Pumphrey

A Pumphrey community group has a plan to steer childre away from drugs by boosting their self-esteem and strengthening their language and math skills.

But the Taxpayers Improvement Association of Patapsco Park is still waiting, after nearly one year, to find out whether a proposed drug-abuse prevention program will get funding from the United Way of Central Maryland.


The association applied in January for a United Way community initiatives grant to start an after-school, anti-drug program three days a week at the Lloyd Keaser Community Center, off Belle Grove Road. Parent volunteers, led by a program director, would tutor kids ages 5 to 18 and organize cultural activities, said Yolande Dickerson, the center's programs director.

Area children repeatedly have asked Mrs. Dickerson when the activities will start. She and the volunteers are ready now, she said. But she learned last week the program will have to wait.


The proposal has yet to make it past the county United Way committee that reviews such requests. And United Way of Central Maryland officials have temporarily frozen funding for community initiatives, pending a review of the process used to award such grants.

A committee of the county's United Way Community Partnership met in July with the improvement association to review the proposal. In September, the committee requested more information, which the association submitted last month.

Carole B. Baker, the county's United Way manager of regional services, said her committee had been concerned about money requested for consultants' fees and overhead. The group's revised proposal failed to address those concerns, she said. Her committee is waiting now to meet again with the community group.

The group needs money to take children on trips and pay for speakers, administrative costs and a director's salary, said Mrs. Dickerson, who would not disclose the exact amount requested for fear of hurting the group's chances for funding.

She already has lined up 10 parents, including retired teachers and other professionals, who would volunteer to tutor children in math, science and reading. A local business has agreed to donate a computer, to help children improve writing skills. She would eventually hire a guidance counselor to train parents to assist in career planning.

And she envisions volunteers teaching children about their heritage and running activities in dance, music and drama. Volunteers would also direct plays with an anti-drug message that children could videotape and submit to local cable television.

Such activities and tutorial help would boost self-esteem and allow students to succeed in school, in turn keeping them away from drugs and crime, said Mrs. Dickerson, who especially wants to reach boys between the ages of 13 and 18.

"These children are committing the crimes, not only in the communities but in the schools," she said. "It has become a crisis."


She estimated that about 50 area children would come to the center. If successful, the program could become a model for other communities, she said.

"Kids need to know they're able to succeed as well as anyone else," she said. "A lot don't have confidence to know they can go in the classroom and do as well as anyone else. This grant is built around the total child. Schools can go so far, but the community needs to do more."