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Local NAACP seeks to triple membership

July 02, 2003|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

shappell@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Branch of the NAACP wants to triple its membership this summer.

Washington County NAACP Branch President Tracey Brown said the 30-member group is in the midst of an aggressive recruiting drive, which includes distributing fliers at community events and sending out reminders via mail.

Brown said she hopes the group can reach the "realistic goal" of having 100 members by September.

"Interest has increased over the last month," Brown said. "There's so many minorities in the community that could surely give us a membership not less than 100."

The first order of business for the branch once it has increased to at least 50 members will be a vote for new officers, according to Brown.

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Once leadership for the next year is established, the NAACP plans to increase training to educate residents on registering to vote and on issues pertinent to the upcoming election. Another aim is to develop contacts with local businesses and organizations to open up new programming opportunities.

Brown said effectively serving community needs in areas such as education and labor depends almost entirely on increased membership.

"You need people to get things done (the) way you want to," Brown said. "We want to broaden our training programs. We want to broaden our legal department. We just need people."

The focus on recruitment comes after the group has been inactive for the better part of six years, Brown said.

The chapter is trying to recover from losing 20 members in the last year and the inability to reward students with college scholarships in 2003.

Brown replaced former president, the Rev. James Irvin, after he resigned in late 2002 because he was moving out of the area.

Irvin drew the ire of some local officials because of comments he made during a family celebration at Wheaton Park in July 2000. Irvin said then that local politicians were ignoring the minority community and police were disrespecting residents in minority neighborhoods.

Mayor William M. Breichner said talks last year with members of the NAACP, including Irvin, were generally agreeable, not contentious.

He and Brown have spoken twice, informally, since she has taken over as president, Breichner said.

Breichner said he was encouraged by the talks because a re-established county chapter would help officials to better understand issues pertinent to the city's minority population.

The NAACP and the city have taken steps to improve communication as a liaison between the organization and the police department is being established, Breichner said.

"We're just pleased someone has taken charge of the group and is moving it forward," Breichner said.

"We're looking forward to working with them."

Those interested in obtaining information about joining the Washington County Chapter of the NAACP may contact Brown by calling 301-791-1569 or by e-mail at browncharacter@aol.com.

The county chapter's meetings are held at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at Memorial Recreation Center, 109 W. North St.

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