After nearly calling it quits because of record-low attendance, the Lawrence chapter of the NAACP may be revitalizing.
Prompted by newspaper coverage about the chapter's potential fate, about 50 people showed up for a forum Thursday night about the state of Lawrence's branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The basement room of the St. Luke A.M.E. Church was packed with people, and more continued to arrive throughout the forum.
"There's been a real lack of commitment," said Janis Grubbs Cobbs, the chapter's president. "There were only two, three of us showing up on a regular basis, and that concerns me. Is commitment to civil rights becoming passe?"
Yet attendees last night unanimously decided at the end of the meeting to keep the chapter going, support it with paid membership and nominate a new board of officers at the next meeting in November.
It's a good thing, considering the chapter's history, said member Bill Tuttle.
"Infusing this chapter with new people is really valuable," he said. "They've done so much for housing, jobs and equality, it would be impossible to fill that void if it were to shut down."
Norman Bell, 50, said he was there because after seeing riots in the '70s, he knew how important it was to have a place to go with civil rights concerns. Although he has never been to a meeting before, he came after reading about the possible shut-down in the paper, to show his support.
"You never know when you'll need them," he said.
Five to 10 people come to the NAACP each month requesting help with housing, employment, family and neighborhood issues, Grubbs Cobbs said, so keeping the Lawrence chapter open will benefit the community.
"Those new members, they will be the eyes and ears of what's going on in the community," she said.
For now, Grubbs Cobbs says she hopeful, but wary.
"I think we are going to have a positive turnaround," she said. "But we just can't come out for one night. We have to follow through."