The Carroll chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving kicked off the annual Red Ribbon Campaign yesterday by snipping a large, decorative red ribbon.
The group also has a new office in Westminster, which volunteers said will serve as a focal point for their efforts to prevent drinking and driving, to assist victims of accidents caused by drunken drivers and to monitor the county's courts.
"We need a central point to be able to grow and to do more and more in the community," said Shirley Hampt, group president. "To help public awareness you have to have a central point."
The central point for the nearly 2-year-old organization is a small, sparsely furnished office behind a two-story brick building at 229 E. Main St. County businesses donated furniture, a computer, a copying machine and other supplies.
MADD's state organization is helping pay the rent, and the owner of the building is picking up the tab for utilities, said Charlene Johnson, the group's vice president.
The group, which has about 55 members, moved in the office in August, Ms. Hampt said.
The organization's local board will meet in the new space, but monthly membership meetings will continue to be at the Church of the Open Door in Westminster, she said. The group hopes to hold those and other meetings in the new office next year.
Mrs. Johnson said the new office means the group can meet victims of accidents involving drunken drivers in "neutral space" instead of at private residences or elsewhere. MADD helps such victims with assistance for emotional, financial and other problems, she said.
"We're out there for people who need help," said her husband, Bob Johnson, who also is a MADD member. "We're not out screaming to put people behind bars. There's a misconception. We're trying to make things better for the communities we live in."
MADD members passed out red ribbons for "Tie One on for Safety," the group's annual Red Ribbon Campaign, in which participants tie the ribbons to their vehicles to remind themselves and others not to drink and drive.
The mood at the open house was festive. Attending were County Commissioner President Donald I. Dell, state Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-District 5, Lt. Randy Barnes of the Westminster Police Department and representatives from other MADD chapters.
Mr. Dell presented the group with a proclamation deeming the day "Carroll County MADD Day."
"This is a small group here, but small groups can be very forceful," he said.
Tentative hours for the new office are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The group is seeking donations and volunteers for a variety of activities, including staffing the new office, making red ribbons and monitoring the courts.