To help the Enoch Pratt Free Library make books available to poor kids, they're going to hang the world's biggest portrait of Elvis on black velvet.
To help homebound victims of AIDS get fed, they're going to sell masks with beehive hairdos rising like the Bromo Seltzer tower from cat's-eye glasses studded with rhinestones.
To give Bea Gaddy a hand sheltering the homeless, music will be provided, for your dancing pleasure, by Moe Fine and the All Blind Orchestra.
All the organizers need now are hundreds of people to show up next week at the B&O Railroad Museum roundhouse for the Mardi Gras Masquerade Ball. "It's called recession-era fund-raising," said planner Brian Morton.
Mr. Morton and a dozen of his friends and neighbors have been meeting at Scallio's Tavern on Hollins Street for more than a month planning a shindig to make Baltimore a better place.
In the old neighborhood gin mill with its tin ceiling, linoleum floor, knotty pine paneling and faded boxing photos on the wall, they attend to matters bizarre and mundane. Talking over rickety tables draped with red-and-white checked oil cloth, they sip beer, smoke cigarettes and trouble-shoot the details:
* "The guy in Frederick who did the nude painting of George Bush wants to do something for us."
* "We've got to recruit more bartenders."
* "The Orioles said they don't take ads in programs, so we should start hitting up midlevel guys, like Steven L. Miles."
* "We need more companies to donate prizes for the costume contest."
* "We're going to be running around all night plucking beer cans off the sides of trains."
And on and on, with a week to go before the roundhouse rocks on the 28th. February, after all, is a slow party month.
Together they are printers, bartenders, jewelers, mathematicians and antiques dealers, with nary a CEO or board member among them.
It bothers them when the local Pratt library is closed because on any given day there may be no heat, no staff or no money.
"The real point is that the Hollins branch is in an impoverished area and should be open as much as possible," said Joe Fields, who plays sax with the All Blind Orchestra, a bunch of musical wisenheimers. "It's not so much that we want to use it -- we can go downtown to the Pratt -- but it should be open for the poor school kids in the neighborhood."
The Pratt, which a few months ago planned to permanently close the Hollins branch because of budget cuts, is due to receive half of any money raised by the ball. Four other charities are to split the rest: the Bea Gaddy Foundation, Viva House, the South Baltimore Homeless Shelter, and A Moveable Feast, which delivers food to shut-in victims of the AIDS virus.
Mr. Morton, his friend Phillip Minion from Scallio's softball team -- which has won two games and lost 60 -- and the other organizers are long on creativity, as evidenced by the 21-by-14-foot Elvis on black velvet.
They even called Graceland to make sure their black velvet is the biggest of the King.
But they're not very experienced at staging parties involving more than a boom box and a keg of beer. That's why they recruited a guru from the real world, Alan W. Pressman, director of catering for Baltimore Grand.
"You can be as creative as you possibly can, but if you don't know the logistics, you can't throw an event like this," said Mr. Pressman, who is coordinating food and drink for the event.
"If we can get at least 500 guests, I hope to raise about $11,000 after expenses -- that's if people come and drink a little bit, eat a little bit and dance a lot."