These expansion plans need money to work Ehrmann optimistic about his ministry

June 22, 1993|By Brian Fishman | Brian Fishman,Staff Writer

Joe Ehrmann is determined to expand his inner-city ministry, The Door, but he needs more money.

He's hoping that proceeds from tomorrow's Colts, Cattle & Charity can boost the program's finances. The fund-raising bull roast, 6 to 10 p.m. at the State Fairgrounds in Timonium, will honor ex-Colt Raymond Berry for his contributions to football and in particular his years in Baltimore. Johnny Unitas, Art Donovan and Lenny Moore will be among the more than 25 former Colts participating.

There also will be rap and dance performances by kids from The Door as well as a tribute to people who have had an impact on Baltimore's sports history.

"I think that Ray Berry exemplifies what we are about," said Ehrmann, a defensive tackle with the Colts from 1973 to 1980.

Last year's bull roast was held the night before the Miami Dolphins-New Orleans Saints exhibition game at Memorial Stadium. The event sold out and brought in $60,000 for The Door. But with the operating budget rising almost daily -- Ehrmann pegged it at $750,000 -- another crowd of 1,000 is almost a necessity.

"We're really struggling," he said last week. "Most of our grants have been cut back. Our donations are down.."

But Ehrmann stays positive about his organization and its future. Ehrmann opened the ministry in 1986 in an office on Pratt Street. He moved it to the second floor of a warehouse on North Washington before taking it to its present location at 219 N. Chester. The Door serves between 250 and 300 children.

Ehrmann has 13 full-time employees, many more volunteers and a small group of summer interns at The Door, where programs focus on poverty, drugs, teen pregnancy, illiteracy and racism.

"I still think that the vast majority of people think that this is something that Joe Ehrmann does," he said. "I think that very few people understand the depth of what we do and the size of our staff and the needs of this city."

Ehrmann recently received the Governor's Medal of Distinction from Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

Youngsters who are served by The Door give it rave reviews.

"If my mother or father are fighting, The Door is a place to come andtalk about it," said Tabetha Wheeler, 11. "They really care about us."

"The streets are bad, but The Door is a safe place," said Kenya Purvis, 8. "There's drugs on the street, but not at The Door."

And Mut-Mut Murchison, 10, said: "Life would be boring without The Door. I come to The Door to learn and have fun."

What separates The Door from other youth organizations is the time commitment: Kids must arrange a schedule of three hours a day, five days per week for learning.

But there are a limited number of spaces. Ehrmann said that some of the programs have waiting lists of more than 200 people.

"We can't [accommodate] everyone who needs help," he said. "Given the limited amount of opportunities, where else do you go? We want to reproduce our program. Somebody else ought to be doing what we're doing. It's tragic for a kid to come here every day and have us tell him he can't come in. Where does he go?"

For nearly seven years, Ehrmann has devoted himself to an idea: "If you give kids a dream and help them to work toward it, then there's the potential for change," he said.

HELPING THE DOOR

What: Colts, Cattle & Charity, a fund-raising bull roast to benefit The Door, Joe Ehrmann's inner-city ministry

Site: State Fairgrounds, Timonium

When: Tomorrow, 6-10 p.m.

Tickets: $30. Call The Door at (410) 675-3288.

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