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MADD Shuts L.A. Office, Cites Funding

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Reeling from lackluster donations, the Los Angeles chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving has closed its main office and laid off its staff of six full-time workers, officials said Saturday.

Last week, the nonprofit organization had already laid off its education director and receptionist, and was unable to answer calls.

MADD, which once made national headlines for its aggressive grass-roots campaign against alcohol-impaired drivers, will maintain an office near Los Angeles International Airport with two part-time workers, said local chapter Vice President Tom Schulte.

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“It’s painful to say, but we’re no longer the charity du jour like we once were,” he said. “We’ve been running in the negative for some time, and we knew that if we didn’t get a good pickup in donations toward the end of the year that it would be it for us.”

MADD’s state chapter could no longer subsidize the Los Angeles branch, Schulte said.

He said funding efforts haven’t been the same since the Northridge earthquake destroyed the Van Nuys office where the group had worked for 14 years. The branch has been operating out of an office on Laurel Canyon Boulevard since the quake.

“It’s a mystery to me what happened,” he said. “We’ve given people so many opportunities to help. We’ve had so many events, so many mailings. Maybe it’s the competing charities. Maybe it’s just the sign of the times, but we haven’t been as successful as we have in the past.”

Three years ago, the group had 12 full-time staffers and collected more than $1 million in government grants and private donations, Schulte said. But those numbers have fallen off in recent years.

In 1993, MADD mailed 6,000 solicitations and collected $46,000 in donations. The following year, it mailed 23,000 solicitations and received $17,000. And last year, the branch got an even more paltry sum from 45,000 solicitations.

As a result, the group had to cut back or phase out its educational and alcohol-alternative programs in schools and community locations.

“I’ll tell you how bad it’s been,” Schulte said. “For the last five months, we’ve collected less than $2,000 per month. It’s been sad. MADD had its day in the spotlight. But it’s dark now. We’ve got to regroup.”

Karen Cullie, the Los Angeles chapter’s executive director, lost her $45,000-a-year job, but said she will continue as a volunteer until she finds another position.

Meanwhile, a donated telephone answering service will continue dispensing information on free rides over the New Year’s holiday. Following that, the two part-timers will conduct a victim support group and offer court-related services for the surviving families of drunk driving victims.

More than 16,500 people were killed nationwide in alcohol-related accidents last year, and another million were injured, Cullie said.

“For me, the loss of MADD is heart-rending for the community,” she said. “I’m a single mother and I know I’m going to be at greater risk when I take my kids out of the house and onto the streets. We’re all at greater risk.”


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