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City community group official drops her volunteer efforts; GHCC programs director faced time constraints


Forced to choose between her job as a North Baltimore community organizer and volunteer political work, Odette Ramos has decided to keep her job as neighborhood programs director for Greater Homewood Community Corp.

Ramos, 27, had to give up her extracurricular unpaid work as spokeswoman for the Neighborhood Congress, a citywide grass-roots organization that started last summer and works to improve city services.

"I didn't have another paycheck, so there wasn't really much of a choice," Ramos said yesterday. "Since I work for GHCC and the organization placed greater demands on my time, my involvement with the Neighborhood Congress is virtually nonexistent."

Her boss, GHCC Executive Director William P. Miller, said the nonprofit group supports the Neighborhood Congress, but could not spare the staffer responsible for half of GGHC's projects.

"We realized we were putting much more of our resources into the Neighborhood Congress than others were," he said. "We needed to refocus her time and energy into GHCC activities."

GHCC, an umbrella organization serving North Baltimore, is funded by organizations including the Johns Hopkins University and Union Memorial Hospital.

While it did not endorse a mayoral candidate last summer, the Neighborhood Congress helped focus campaign attention on neighborhood issues such as crime, drugs, trash and schools. Resident action has been its rallying cry.

Ramos, an Albuquerque, N.M., native who graduated from Goucher College in 1995, said she aspires to run for political office "before I'm 30." A Charles Village resident, she considered running for City Council last year, but decided to maintain her visible and vocal role with the Neighborhood Congress.

Lisa Smith of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association, which coordinates and staffs the Neighborhood Congress, said Ramos made a "fantastic contribution" that will be missed. "She put a lot of plans in place and pieces together," Smith said.

Ramos said she was given about a month for "transition time, then things had to cease."

Barbara Bonnell, GHCC board president, described Ramos as bright and energetic, adding, "She could not be doing two things at once. It's easy to get carried away, unless you're reminded that we who are paying her salary need her to pull back and do a full day's work."

Ramos plans to attend the next major Neighborhood Congress event, a rally March 13 at the State House in Annapolis. The organization is seeking an additional $25 million from the state for drug treatment programs in Baltimore. In the city, one in eight adults is drug-addicted.

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