Charities feeling pinch from strike

August 30, 1994|By Steven Kivinski | Steven Kivinski,Contributing Writer Staff writer Edward Lee contributed to this article.

It may be peanuts compared with the millions of dollars the players and owners are losing during the baseball strike, but many charities in and around Baltimore are feeling an impact just the same.

For the past three baseball seasons, Otterbein Methodist Church has taken advantage of its location on the corner of Conway and Sharp streets, opposite the B&O warehouse. Church volunteers sell peanuts to fans who make their way to Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Last year, the church made more than $30,000 selling $1 bags of peanuts, helping it restore its 100-year-old Henry Niemann pump organ.

If the strike continues, Otterbein Methodist stands to lose nearly $12,000, which the Rev. Miller Knowles had hoped to use for "catching up on neglected maintenance."

Had there not been a strike, the church -- which has been at the same site since 1771 -- had planned to install air conditioning and restore the floors in Fellowship Hall. Instead, it will paint the interior of the sanctuary.

"When we realized the strike was a possibility, we decided not to make such a long wish list so we wouldn't be frustrated," said Knowles. "We'll just have to wait a little longer to fix up Fellowship Hall."

Other churches, civic groups and nonprofit organizations participating in ARA Services' charity concession stands program at Oriole Park have tightened their belts because of the play stoppage, and many continue to search for new sources of revenue.

The Baltimore County bureau of the Maryland Special Olympics uses the money to provide year-round sports training and competition for the mentally retarded and people with developmental disabilities. It was scheduled to work 60 games and worked 57 before the strike began Aug. 12.

Miriam Weinstein, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Special Olympics, estimates the loss at roughly $250 per game.

Some organizations weren't so lucky.

The Baltimore American-Indian Center relies heavily on the commission from operating four stands at each Orioles home game. The Fells Point-based center uses the money it raises to help needy Native American families in Baltimore with utility bills and housing payments.

Executive director Mesheila Lynch said she isn't panicking.

"Without the money from the concession stands, it really hurts our ability to help people who need it," Lynch said.

Some players continue to contribute time and money to charity.

Sunday night, Mark Williamson, Jeff Tackett, Jim Poole and Leo Gomez and their wives attended a fund-raiser to benefit the Children's Cancer Foundation.

The city sponsors a "Reading, Runs and Ripken" program, which raises money from pledges for every run Cal Ripken drives in. The program is trying to reach its initial goal of $55,000 by creating a fantasy season for the Orioles, during which it will project the remainder of the season for the Orioles and Ripken.

At the end of the fantasy season, Baltimore Reads Inc., a nonprofit organization that teaches adults to read, will allow sponsors to pay for the "fantasy runs" or the "real runs" -- which stand at 75.

Taking Ripken's RBI average for 112 games and projecting that over a 162-game season would give the Orioles star shortstop 108 RBIs.

Jeannie Howe of Baltimore Reads says that it is unclear how to run the fantasy season but is confident that the fantasy games will be of some interest to its sponsors.

"While we're disappointed about the strike, here is an opportunity for us," said Howe. "There's a good spirit about this. A lot of people still care about the program and are willing to step up to the plate."

City Temple Baptist Church, which runs a soup kitchen, no longer receives leftovers from the Orioles after each home game.

The church on Dolphin Street feeds between 75 to 350 people a day. Rev. Grady Yergin said the baseball labor dispute has forced the church to rely more on organizations like the Food Bank of Maryland and Bread on the Water.

"It takes a little chunk out of what we have to have to offer, and the last couple of weeks, the number of people coming through has increased, and that puts an additional strain on it," said Yergin. "We haven't had to turn anyone away, we've had to stretch things, but no one has gone away hungry."

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