By Michele DeLuca
Niagara Gazette — They dont' seem mad so much as resolute. But, it's clear that a small group of men are hoping to make a big change on the city's streets as they create a new chapter of MAD DADS."
Guys like Michael Majors have seen enough. He recalls one day last summer watching two gangs of girls clashing in the middle of the street of his North End neighborhood. The female fighters used sticks and bricks. As families dragged their children out of harm's way, the groups clashed for nearly 15 minutes before police sirens were heard. Then, they scattered as quickly as they had gathered, Majors said.
Majors is the communications director for the new start up chapter of MAD DADS in Niagara Falls. The organization's name is short for "Men Against Destruction Defending Against Drugs and Social Disorder. There are 16 chapters in the U.S., and the newest chapter is holding its first open weekly meeting tonight.
"It's for adult men who have decided its time to step up to our responsibiities and try to do something for the youth on our streets," Majors said. "For way too long we've let women do it and they're tired."
About 10 men are part of the group thus far, led by Duane Ferguson, who founded the Buffalo chapter of MAD DADS 16 years ago and is currently the vice president of the national organization. Ferguson estimates more than 25,000 kids and adults lives have been touched since the Buffalo chapter was created in response to drug activity around Buffalo Community School 53.
The signature component of the MAD DADS program is street patrol, said Ferguson, father of three and a Compass House counselor in Buffalo. But there are many other aspects of the action-based effort, including basketball programs, field trips, tutoring, job assistance, role modeling and much more. The program is designed to "take back the streets, one corner and one block at a time."
Efforts to do the same in Niagara Falls will begin at 6 p.m. tonight at 557 19th St., in a building provided for the group by its owner Ron Cunningham, who will be the director of operations of the chapter. The group will hold weekly meetings each Thursday which are open to all who are interested, from teens to parents to grandparents or other interested residents. A grand opening of the building is planned for the near future.
Cunningham, a truancy prevention officer for the city's school district, called MAD DADS a ministry. "The kids need help and somebody's got to help them," Cunningham said. "You can't give up on kids, you have to wait for a breakthrough."