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WATTS : Anti-Dropout Group Seeks New Sponsor

March 13, 1994|LUCILLE RENWICK

The recent demise of the Common Ground Foundation's major sponsor has thrown the Watts-based dropout prevention program into a financial tailspin.

Since 1991, Common Ground received about 85% of its funding from Cross Colours, the hip-hop denim clothing company. But the end of Threads 4 Life, the parent company of Cross Colours, has left Common Ground's founder searching for other funding.

"I'm not a stranger to struggle," said Fred Williams, 35, the founder and executive director of Common Ground. "We lost the sponsorship, and that's hard because they were a major funder."

Williams said Cross Colours officials were giving his foundation about $160,000 a year, which covered his $40,000-a-year salary and salaries for six workers in the foundation.

"I had a contract and it was sweet. It was too sweet to let go," Williams said.

Threads 4 Life, the City of Commerce company that produced the Cross Colours clothing line, was forced to sell all of its manufacturing operations this month to cope with mounting financial difficulties.

Williams was approached by Carl Jones, president and founder of Cross Colours, in 1991. Jones and T. J. Walker, the other name behind Cross Colours, signed a five-year contract with Williams, which was due to expire in 1996, and sponsored several events with Williams including an 18-hour "Stop the Violence" job-a-thon for inner-city teen-agers soon after the 1992 riots.

Neither Jones nor Walker could be reached for comment.

Williams said the demise of Threads 4 Life and the company's funding of Common Ground will not mean the end of his organization, which has retrieved more than 30,000 youths from the streets and put them back in school since it was founded in 1988, Williams said. After a nearly monthlong hiatus from his organization, Williams said he is working on restructuring Common Ground and will begin working on finding new sponsors.

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