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MADD chapter facing new challenge

September 07, 1997

By LISA GRAYBEAL

Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - When Beverly Sanders formed the Franklin County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving 10 years ago she wasn't a mother or a victim of a drunk-driving accident.

But after 18 years of working in the county's district justice system, Sanders said she had seen too many alcohol-related incidents - including a high number of DUI-related fatalities - pass through the courts, and she became discouraged that the statistics weren't getting better.

"At that time, MADD was at the grass roots level ... What MADD stood for at that point was public awareness," Sanders said.

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Working out of their homes for a decade, Sanders and a group of volunteers infiltrated county schools and organizations with literature and presentations expounding a now popular four-word message: Don't drink and drive.

Though the campaign has been effective, the problem still exists. Now MADD chapters nationwide are facing a new challenge of staying alive in a time when volunteerism is at an alarmingly low rate.

The situation has forced several chapters around the state and nation recently to shut down.

"It's not that the programs aren't good or aren't successful in achieving public awareness, it's just that volunteerism is down, and it's not just at MADD," Sanders said.

Franklin County's chapter is no exception, which is why its new five-member board of directors is refocusing its efforts so that MADD will remain a viable human service organization in the area for another 10 years.

As a start, MADD in Franklin County will soon have a headquarters in the form of an office in Chambersburg where victims and volunteers will meet and programs will be organized.

With the office comes a part-time paid employee who will be on hand to answer incoming calls and greet the public, among other duties.

"This is where we're hoping to increase our value in the county," said Rose Decker, MADD's chapter administrator.

Local organizers are also planning new programs and awareness campaigns to keep MADD's message alive. Chapter members are also looking at new ways to attract members through local businesses.

"We're in a growth period again. We want to let people know we are still here," Sanders said.

The local organization plans to continue its Prom Promise program, through which high school seniors sign an agreement that they won't drink and drive on prom night.

The red ribbons fluttering on car antennas and door handles can also be traced to MADD, whose members will continue to distribute them annually as part of the designated driver campaign.

MADD also wants to continue and expand its role as victim advocate, providing support, offering literature on the legal process and serving as a referral service to counseling agencies and other organizations.

"We can offer a lot of things, including just plain old listening," Sanders said.

* For more information on the Franklin County MADD chapter, call 1-717-261-9406.

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