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Officials weigh using drug-fighting fund
ap Elevenblackmen pic
Youth, called transcenders, and adult who act as mentors in the Eleven Black Men of Liberty County march in last week Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade here. - photo by Alena Parker / Coastal Courier
The Liberty County Drug Abuse Treatment and Education Fund has money sitting, waiting for someone to use it for its intended purpose.
But no organizations have applied since a request from Eleven Black Men of Liberty County failed to advance in a county commission meeting early this month.
During the Jan. 8 meeting, Commissioner Marion Stevens moved for a vote on whether the organization would get $11,000 it was requesting. The motion did not receive a second.
Eleven Black Men aims to take a number of at-risk youth, usually around a dozen at a time, and mentor them during their teen years. It is not focused primarily on preventing drug abuse, but organizers say that is part of their aim.
Stevens did not say whether his motion indicate support for the request.
"When an issue comes up," he said, "that's the time to vote it up or down."
The requested money would have come from the DATE fund, an accumulation of fines and forfeitures from drug related offenses.
"The only thing this money can be used for is drug prevention and education programs," Kim McGlothlin, finance officer for the county, said.
Commissioner Pat Bowen said he did not think the organization's intended use matched the purpose of the fund and he "thought about this long and hard after it all happened."
"I really don't think it fit," Bowen said. "If you look at it, just about every church in the county is entitled to it."
He explained that there are a lot of churches that provide educational programs and asked, "Then, why aren't they getting it?"
County grant administrator Carmela Moore explained there was an application process for programs or organizations wanting the money, a process that includes a proposal for how the money will be used.
Moore reviews the application and the commissioners decide yeah or nay.
She reiterated that the state written authority for fund allocation was "established exclusively for drug abuse treatment and educational programs."
"We thought that (the DATE fund) would be a force that we could tap into," Charles Frasier, city councilman and current president of the Eleven Black Men, said.
Frasier is also one group's organizers. He said the group emerged in 1991 because organizers saw "too many incidents of (young black men) being targeted," and "heard the cry of the community."
"Not just local numbers, but on the national level too," he said.
Frasier compared young black men to "endangered species," and said, "something needed to be done."
The non-profit organization's mission is to "mentor young men in the local community."
Frasier said the focus is on young black men, but other backgrounds are not excluded.
"We simply want to be role models for them...offer them experiences that some of them simply would not have," Frasier said.
The organization funds itself through other grants, donations and funderaisers. Its main fundraiser is the Eleven Black Men Annual Banquet held in March.
Since the board of commissioners did not vote on the organization's application, Eleven Black Men is eligible to apply again.
Several county organizations have been approved and benefited from receipt of this fund, including the DARE program and Liberty Family Connection.
In 2002, the Fraser Center received a little over $16,500 from the fund. Last June, Save Our Children was the most recent DATE fund recipient.
"The money has not been awarded to another program yet and will sit in its separate bank account until such time that the Board of Commissioners determines a program suitable for awarding the funds," McGlothin said.
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