Not so long ago, the Point Pleasant-Shoreland Improvement Association could easily have been described as moribund. It was tough just to get officers to attend bimonthly meetings.
Now, the meetings regularly draw 40 members who express concerns over neighborhood issues and linger over coffee and munchies afterward. And new members paying $5 a year in dues are steadily trickling in.
"I think we are doing better now than ever," said Joan Valenti, financial treasurer of the association and a member since the late 1950s.
"It seems to be making a turnaround now. It's coming back," said association president Leo Brukiewa.
Most of the organization's $8,100 budget goes toward scholarships, do nations, parties and community beautification.
In the last three years, its largess has included nearly $2,000 in computers and software for Point Pleasant Elementary School, as much as $2,500 a year in scholarships, $600 toward Archbishop Martin Spalding High School's library and about $350 for toys for needy children, Mrs. Valenti said.
Members put up a neighborhood sign and landscaped around it. They rented buses to take residents to Annapolis to protest the prospect of having a new county jail nearby. They are arranging a third holiday party, at which children will be entertained by a magician and Santa Claus.
This Saturday, the association will mark its 45th anniversary with a free dinner dance for its 120 member families at the Church of the Good Shepherd, 1451 Furnace Ave., Glen Burnie. Outsiders will have to pay $15.
Mr. Valenti said he expects 130 to 150 people.
But it wasn't always this good.
It's like the old days, after World War II, when development on the peninsula between Marley and Furnace Creek mushroomed. Ten local men, gathering at a neighborhood tavern, decided they wanted "to have clout with the local politicians and wanted a community meeting place," recalled Stella Spies, one of the organization's 11 charter members.
It worked. They got street lights, and water and sewer lines. Briefly, they even had a bus line to Baltimore. But that faded because it had too few riders, she said.
And they built the community association building, little more than a basement with a roof on top. They planned to add a story in the future, but never did.
For years, the building and playground were a source of neighborhood pride, as much for newcomers as for the families whose elders used to travel by boat from Baltimore to the tip of the peninsula for visits.
By the mid-1980s, the building where the members held dinners, chaperoned dances for teen-agers and put on wedding receptions when those children grew up, had become an albatross, weighing heavily on the organization.
At one point, association members re-roofed the leaking building themselves because they could barely afford the shingles, let alone to hire a roofer, Mr. Brukiewa recalled.
Nearly all the money the association raised in dues and fund-raisers went right into its building at Seventh Street and Marley Avenue, Mr. Brukiewa said.
When association members used to suggest having a community party, officers reminded them they had to use the money to pay for insurance or utility bills, Mrs. Valenti said.
In 1989, the association sold the property, which brought about $95,000. Now, interest on the conservatively invested money supplies the bulk of the budget and the dollars the association has been able to pump into the community.