Group seeks Carroll funds

The Alliance asks officials for $77,000 for staff, grant

No pledge from commissioners

Organization focuses on youth, family programs

Carroll County

October 03, 2002|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

The Alliance, a coalition of organizations established to strengthen Carroll's families, has set up youth boards across the county and has doubled its membership in two years, the group's leaders said yesterday while asking the county commissioners for money to continue their efforts.

The Alliance board members requested $77,000 in county money for next year, saying it would pay the salaries of two full-time employees who serve the volunteer organization and would provide the Alliance with the $3,500 in matching money it needs to secure a $20,000 state grant. Volunteers also are exploring several fund-raising options.

The commissioners, who in past years have provided the Alliance with $100,000 - $50,000 annually since the group's founding in March 2000 - made no financial commitment, but all three complimented the organization on the strides it has made. Commissioner Donald I. Dell said he has long been interested in what the county can offer its youth, and he praised the group for its outreach and mentoring programs.

When they took office in 1998, the commissioners drafted goals for their four-year term, calling for a "focus on youth and families" to "reduce the risk of crime and substance abuse." The Alliance grew from those goals. It started with 23 members and has grown to 58, including business, church and service groups.

"We have gone after and promoted good things, not duplicating what is already here," said Art Riley, director of pharmacy for Episcopal Ministries to the Aging and one of nine Alliance board members. "We are here to act as a catalyst."

Organizers have held activities, from music festivals to block parties, honoring youths who are contributing to their communities. In April, the Alliance recognized youths from every town in Carroll.

"We are showing what a valuable asset our youth are," said the Rev. Chris Guyer, a board member. "Our real goal is to link adults and youth."

The Alliance also launched Celebrate Youth Year in April, a 14-month observance that will culminate June 7 in a Youth Expo at Carroll County Farm Museum. About 2,500 youth are expected.

"Sustainability is the largest issue for us now," said Stacey Taylor Smith, Alliance project coordinator. "We have the structure and we are going from concept to action."

The Alliance opened its Web site in April with links to national and regional organizations that have a similar focus. The site lists available family services and offers a community calendar with more than 100 family-oriented events.

"This is a cool tool that lists all the resources in the community," said Smith. "We are getting about 6,800 hits per month."

The Alliance has established youth boards that involve about 130 teen-agers in Westminster, Sykesville and Taneytown and it is working to get similar groups off the ground in the county's other five towns. Students must donate 75 hours to community service as part of their graduation requirement. The boards can direct youths to service opportunities.

"These boards provide a vehicle for youth to serve their communities, to be a constructive voice and to have an influence on the place where they live," said Sally Long, board member and director of Lifelong Learning at Carroll Community College, which offers training for adults working with youths.

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