Volunteers power convention

Coach: Local NAACP host has worked hard for 10 months to rally troops and make the convention and the city look good.

July 08, 2000|By Melody Holmes | Melody Holmes,SUN STAFF

With short, quick strides, Thelma Daley scurries about the Baltimore Convention Center, tying up loose ends, fielding questions and beaming at what her 10 months of labor have birthed.

Daley, the local host coordinator for the 91st annual convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Baltimore. She has been responsible since September for getting the city ready for the convention. She has rallied more than 500 volunteers and secured funds from large corporate sponsors such as Black Entertainment Television and Coca-Cola.

The hardest part, said Daley, was "getting the city worked up." Getting people excited enough to volunteer and donate money to help the local chapter prepare for the 10,000 potential attendees at the convention, the NAACP's first national convention in Baltimore since 1986, called for strategy, she said.

"She had a plan, she had a vision, she expressed it, she told us what she wanted us to do, and we buckled down and did it," said Jacqueline Richardson, membership chair for the Baltimore NAACP branch.

Daley helped Richardson and other volunteers stuff bags full of souvenirs yesterday for attendees. Some had come to register for the week's events and others were contestants in the NAACP's Academic, Cultural, Technical & Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO), which runs through tomorrow.

Daley - a slight woman, clad in see-through pumps, hot pink slacks and blouse, and wrists wrapped in bracelets - spent much of yesterday crisscrossing the cavernous convention center, running down answers when they didn't roll off her tongue.

"I see everything coming together," said Daley, as she told one volunteer about her struggle to showcase local visual and performing artists at the convention, an element she hopes to keep in coming years.

Her organizing and adding new attractions to the convention are not Daley's first service to the NAACP or to Baltimore.

She began arranging events like the convention while working for Baltimore City Schools, where she was coordinator for guidance and counseling until 1998. For six years, she organized the annual conventions for the American Counseling Association, for which she was national president.

She also is a former national president of Delta Sigma Theta sorority and has coordinated the NAACP's annual fund-raiser, the Freedom Fund Banquet, for the last seven years.

A part-time professor in Loyola College's counseling program for graduate students, Daley guesses her success as convention coordinator comes from her training in working with people.

Involved with the Baltimore branch of the NAACP for more than 10 years, Daley sees the convention as one of the largest jobs she's taken on. The key to handling it, she said, is "a matter of networking and being nice to people."

Some of the most important members of this network, Daley said, are local churches, which can be a source of eager volunteers.

"We are busy bees," said Cephas Richardson, pastor of Greater Jerusalem Baptist Church in Baltimore. Pastor Richardson, no relation to Jacqueline, carted souvenir bags yesterday to drop-off sites throughout the convention center.

"Dr. Daley is a professional leader," said the pastor, who has volunteered for the NAACP since he was 16. "We go to her for advice when things are not going right."

Some may come to her, but Daley made her way to many yesterday, ironing out problems, giving directions and signing documents.

By early afternoon, she had left the souvenir bag area to meet volunteers in the ACT-SO office. Daley had been told Joe Aston, treasurer for the local branch, needed her.

"There's a lot of people involved, but Thelma is like the coach, she pulls things together," said Aston, who is on the chapter board of directors that voted Daley into her post. "She's doing a good job."

As the number of convention-goers grew yesterday, Daley began greeting attendees who stood in lines to pick up badges or pay NAACP membership dues.

Some of the people in line followed Daley back to the local talent showcase she had organized to listen to a jazz band from a local middle school.

As listeners nodded heads, and tapped feet in time with the music, Daley went to many of them asking, "Aren't they good? They're from right here in Baltimore City."

She said, "I want people to know what the kids right here in Baltimore can do."

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