alma-brown_web.jpgSpecial to South Florida Times

Betty Chandler knew about the National Council of Negro Women. In fact, she was a member until she allowed her membership to lapse.

Pamela Strachan never heard of the NCNW, until she learned that the Metropolitan Dade Section would be holding a membership drive.

The two women were among attendees at the organization’s membership drive Saturday at the Black Box Theater at Charles Hadley Park, 1350 NW 50th St.

During the meeting, Chandler renewed her membership and Strachan joined the organization.

“It’s a women’s organization and it’s helping my people,” Chandler said. “With the things that are happening now with our youth, we need more people inspiring our youth to change their lives around more and become better citizens.”

The potential for the organization to do more in the community was what attracted Strachan, who owns Perfect Choice Doula and Childbirth Services based in Liberty City.

“I had never heard of this organization before but it seems like they do so much,” Strachan said. “That’s why I came. I want to join and help them.”

Famed educator Mary McCleod Bethune, who started Bethune-Cookman College in Daytona Beach, now Bethune Cookman University, founded the NCNW in 1935 to help women improve the quality of life for themselves, their families and the community. The organization now boasts more than four million members in 34 states.

“The NCNW focuses on giving women a voice,” said Alma Brown, president of the local chapter which began Jan. 21, 1990. “It’s an organization that relates to everyone. We assist regardless of race, creed or color. We have no boundaries. Our goal is to get at least 100 members for this year.”

Attendees were treated to a liturgical dance by Patsy McKnight, who performed to the song Amazing God by William Murphy.

Brown is hoping the local group will stay aligned with Bethune’s original vision by holding events such as the annual Children’s Wish program that provides Christmas gifts for needy children. Brown also wants to attract more students for the chapter’s newly formed Youth Division.

“We want to get their input, not dictate to them,” said Brown. “We want to find out what are the things that interest them in the community, so that they can buy into what we’re doing. We want to get to the root of some of their problems.”

Brown also plans to start a scholarship program for high school students and extending the NCNW’s reach in the community.

“I live by Bethune’s philosophy of keeping the faith,” she said. “I am not going to let anything fall through the cracks. I don’t care what obstacle falls in front of us. The NCNW will come alive again here in Miami.”

• The Metropolitan Dade Section of the National Council of Negro Women meets every fourth Saturday at Charles Hadley Park, 1350 NW 13th Ave., Miami. For more information on the NCNW, call 305-754-6146.

Photo: Alma Brown