Carroll chapter of MADD faces possible closure Group to ask for help from commissioners with rent, equipment


A decline in national telemarketing and direct mail donations to Mothers Against Drunk Driving is curtailing funding for state and local chapters, including Carroll County's.

The Carroll County MADD chapter received a funding cut of nearly 55 percent -- from $18,000 in fiscal 1998 to $8,000 -- from the national organization this fiscal year.

Officers of the Carroll chapter of MADD are looking for solutions to their financial woes and plan to present their plight to the County Commissioners on Wednesday.

As a result of the funding loss, the Carroll office dismissed a part-time secretary and is looking to cut operating costs. MADD officials will ask the county to help obtain rent-free office space and upgraded computer equipment, Linda Dennis, president of the chapter, said Friday.

National and state MADD officials sympathized with the Carroll chapter's situation, but said many of its 350 chapters operate from nonleased headquarters, depend heavily on volunteers rather than paid staff, and have become more aggressive in soliciting individual and corporate donations.

Funds collected in national solicitations are allocated to state chapters with percentages adjusted according to population figures, said Dean Wilkerson, MADD's national executive director. The state chapter then reallocates money to local chapters.

None of Maryland's MADD chapters are in jeopardy, said Brenda Barnes, executive director of the state organization.

"Services may not be as efficient, or as prompt, but MADD won't go away," said Barnes. "If funds fall even lower, chapters in Maryland are not at risk to close."

MADD, founded in California in March 1981 after 13-year-old Cari Lightner was struck and killed by a drunken driver, is a nonprofit organization that strives to assist victims of drunken drivers by .. raising public awareness and promoting legislation against those who continue to drink and drive under the influence of alcohol and drugs.

The Maryland chapter was the second to open, in April 1982, Barnes said.

The Carroll chapter was formed nine years ago, and its board issued a statement July 1, saying national budget cuts and declining donations may force its closing by year's end.

"We are not just mothers -- we are fathers, children, spouses, siblings and concerned citizens," the board wrote. "We are not on a crusade against alcohol consumption for those of legal age. We ask that if you drink, you do so responsibly."

On July 15, Dennis and local MADD officials met informally with County Commissioner Donald I. Dell and Carroll County State's Attorney Jerry F. Barnes and his staff to discuss solutions.

Dennis said Barnes called to offer help and suggested the meeting.

"One of the major overhead expenses is our office, which costs $6,000 in annual rent plus insurance," she said.

Dennis said the brainstorming July 15 led to a determination to search for rent-free office space, which could provide enough savings to enable the chapter to continue operations.

"We must maintain an office open to the public for a minimum of 15 hours a week, so we are eligible for national funding," she said.

The Carroll chapter spends about $12,000 annually for educational materials, which are distributed free, Dennis said.

County residents may not realize that all donations to their local chapter are spent within Carroll County; donations generated by national telemarketers return only about 10 percent to the local chapter, she said.

In another cost-cutting move, Dennis said the local chapter recently dismissed its part-time secretary.

Volunteers will staff MADD's Ralph Street office from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays and from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays.

When overall donations fell from about $50 million to $40 million rTC between 1990 and 1994, MADD's national board shifted its fund-raising focus, determined to rely less on direct mail and telemarketing and more on corporate sponsorship, Wilkerson said.

Figures provided by C. J. Stiles, vice president of the Carroll chapter, showed that $28,500 was spent during the fiscal year ending June 30. Of that amount, $6,000 went to rent and $15,849 paid the part-time secretary.

In addition to the $18,000 from the national organization, local donations and fees from 39 paying members brought in about $4,000, which was not sufficient to offset the approximate $6,000 deficit, the figures showed.

While money helps, the need for volunteers is equally important to MADD chapters, he said.

"People tend to think of MADD as a lobbying and educational organization, but that's only part of what our chapters provide," Wilkerson said. "Victim services -- supporting those whose lives are affected by drunk-driving incidents -- is also an important part of what we do."

Anyone wishing to contact the Carroll chapter of MADD may call 410-876-MADD (6233) or 1-800-427-8444.

Pub Date: 7/19/98

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