Beset by deficit, NAACP's city branch seeks funds

August 26, 1994|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Sun Staff Writer

The Baltimore branch of the NAACP, beset with a lingering deficit and lagging corporate donations, appealed yesterday for support in the wake of the turmoil surrounding the ouster of the Rev. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr.

Five days after the NAACP fired Dr. Chavis as its executive director, the local chapter of the civil rights group set out to court donations and new members.

A somber George N. Buntin Jr., executive director of the Baltimore branch, discussed the deficit and called for both financial and volunteer assistance during the mayor's weekly news briefing.

"Through all of the turmoil that has gone on over the last weeks, the NAACP of Baltimore has continued to stand up to make this city a better city for all citizens," he said. "So we're appealing to the Baltimore community . . . to come to [our] support."

The local organization has been struggling to overcome an outstanding $40,000 deficit in its annual $225,000 budget at a time of flagging donations, Mr. Buntin said.

Saddled with a debt that began in 1989 and grew to $65,000 at one point, the Baltimore chapter fears the controversy over the firing of Dr. Chavis could exacerbate its financial woes. A number of longtime NAACP supporters and corporations have not responded to invitations to the organization's traditional Unity banquet planned for Sept. 21.

The chapter already has done some housecleaning -- cutting back its paid staff from seven people to three and strengthening its membership recruitment.

Like other NAACP branches, however, the Baltimore group relies mainly on corporate and individual donations because it must turn over as much as half of the proceeds from fund-raisers to the national organization.

"The local chapter is really the vanguard of the NAACP -- that's where we're touching people's lives on an individual basis," Mr. Buntin said. "Without the donations, we're facing a very difficult struggle."

The deficit stems from a struggle for control of the Baltimore chapter after Enolia P. McMillen retired as president in 1990, he said. Her departure marked the first time in more than a half-century that the local civil rights organization was without her leadership as a dogged fund-raiser and NAACP advocate.

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