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St. Louis ACORN office to close at the end of the month

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – The last ACORN branch in the state of Missouri will close at the end of the month.

Organizers with the St. Louis office of Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now say they do not have the money to pay staffers or rent. The branch here usually averaged about $500,000 a year, mostly from dues and local foundation grants.

But donors began fleeing last year after a series of scandals, including embezzlement at the national level and widespread allegations of voter registration fraud.

Anne Chilson was the office manager in St. Louis. ACORN's departure, she said, will leave many under-served.

"I don't think anyone else sort of went door to door like our organizers did on a regular basis," she said.

Local activist Joan Suarez said she's not sure who will fill ACORN's unique place in community activism.

"It's that direct involvement in that community, on the streets, knocking on the doors, pulling community folks together," she said. "That role, it's a void at this point."

Suarez holds the local branch responsible for problems with voter registration cards - an East. St. Louis woman pleaded guilty last year. But she said the branches are mostly paying for problems nationally, including the embezzlement and a video that purported to show ACORN staffers telling a couple how to fraudulently receive small business loans for a prostitution business.

The organization has pulled out of several other states, including Illinois and Michigan.


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