Troubled by at least $16,000 in debts, Bea Gaddy said yesterday that she may close a large portion of her Baltimore mission for the poor this fall and relocate to South Florida.
Ms. Gaddy, whose East Baltimore Patterson Park Emergency Food Center Inc. in the 100 block of N. Collington Ave. is a daily oasis for the poor to receive free groceries and clothing, said she may soon lose five properties to foreclosure because she has not made mortgage payments since April.
She blamed slow cash donations for her financial problems, which she said resulted in part from a May 1994 article in The Sun that detailed sloppy accounting practices by her staff and led to an Internal Revenue Service audit of the nonprofit organization.
Ms. Gaddy, 62, said three of her eight shelters -- at Chester Street, Baltimore Street and Monument Street -- would remain open while five other properties, including the food center on North Collington Avenue, would be closed.
She said she would then consider relocating to Plantation, Fla., near Fort Lauderdale to open a new mission with the financial backing of a South Florida millionaire whom she declined yesterday to identify. The new operation would aid migrant workers and Cuban refugees.
"Things have got to get better," Ms. Gaddy said of the lack of donations. "I don't want to lose hope. That is what I teach everyone I come in contact with -- as dark as it may seem, never lose hope."
A handwritten sign posted outside the North Collington Avenue food center says, "Save Bea Gaddy Centers" and lists debts totaling more than $16,000: $8,000 for gas and electric, $600 for the center's van, $4,000 for taxes, $1,600 for insurance and $1,899 for mortgage payments.
The mortgages are five months delinquent, she said. To pay off the entire debt of the houses, she said she needs to raise about $16,000.
To raise money, the food center has recently launched fund-raisers, Ms. Gaddy said. One allows the center to receive a portion of profits from a 900 number. The center also receives a portion of profits from a long-distance company that Ms. Gaddy and her volunteers work for to solicit families to change their phone service carrier.
In the meantime, Michael Storey, a Cocoa Beach, Fla., investor who holds the mortgages on five of Ms. Gaddy's shelters, is sending the center collection notices for the delinquent mortgage bills. If they are not paid soon, he said the matter will be settled in court.
"She's a nice lady," Mr. Storey said. "It's not like she's purposely not trying to pay -- apparently she doesn't have the money. I hope she'll be able to get some money together and make payments according to the contract. I'm a patient person, but I guess everybody has their limit."