Pubdate: Tue, 04 Oct 2005
Source: Fort Pierce Tribune (FL)
Copyright: 2005 The E.W. Scripps Co.
Author: Derek Simmonsen, staff writer
Bookmark: (Youth)


FORT PIERCE -- It's just the beginning of a muggy Friday night and
already the MAD DADS have found their first group of wandering teens.

Handing out pamphlets, the five men talk about their new headquarters,
just a few blocks away on North 23rd Street, and encourage the youths
to come for after-school tutoring. Few seem to take the offer
seriously, but the MAD DADS aren't trying to reach everyone -- just that
one willing to listen.  	

"The first thing we've got to do is save one," said Director Robert
Brown. "They have to be willing to allow us to help them."

It's been more than a year since the national organization MAD DADS,
which stands for Men Against Destruction -- Defending Against Drugs
and Social Disorder, set up a local chapter in Fort Pierce. Since
then, the organization has recruited about a dozen members,
established its headquarters in a high-crime area and been named MAD
DADS chapter of the month.

The main focus of the group's efforts are Friday night "street
patrols," in which members put on MAD DADS hats and polo shirts and
walk through neighborhoods, talking to everyone they see (including
drug dealers and gang members) and handing out pamphlets for the
group. One-on-one encounters in the street are sometimes the only way
to reach troubled youths and steer them straight, Brown said.

"We're not the enemy and they're not the enemy," he

Brown, 58, who's a pharmacist by day, comes by the group's new
headquarters on North 23rd Street most days after work, talking to
kids and local residents who walk by. The Fort Pierce Housing
Authority agreed to rent out the two-story duplex to MAD DADS this
summer, just as they have rented out space to other community groups,
said Fort Pierce Housing Authority Director Glaister Brooks.

"A lot of our youth have been getting into gangs and we thought this
would be a good opportunity for men to get out and give some outreach,
give them some guidance," Brooks said. "Their presence there, reaching
out to the young men, might help curb some of the things going on out

In that same block of North 23rd Street in July, gymnastics coach
DeAngeleano "Deno" Alston, 29, was shot and killed. Police charged 20-
year-old Jimmy Reeves with the homicide, saying Reeves shot Alston
after getting into an argument with one of his friends.

Brown thought twice about renting out the space because of the
violence, but said he thought of the example Jesus set and decided to
move forward with the plans.

"He didn't walk the safe streets with the disciples," Brown

Aside from its street patrols, MAD DADS has a partnership with the
One- Stop Career Center, so if they encounter young people looking for
work, they can try to set them up with a job or an interview. Many of
the young people Brown has met aren't necessarily involved in drugs or
crime, but they hang out on the streets because they have nothing else
to do, he said.

The group also tries to organize community events, has taken young
people on field trips and is starting to tutor kids after school.

Most people, though, will encounter them during their weekly Friday
walks. The MAD DADS aren't vigilantes and have to walk a thin line:
They don't work with police, but they also don't condone criminal
behavior and won't disrupt officers who are doing their jobs, Brown

Though the police department doesn't work with the organization, it
does believe groups like MAD DADS are "desperately needed" in the
city, said Assistant Police Chief Sean Baldwin.

"People who aren't the police are going to be able to develop better
relationships with these kids than we could ever hope to," Baldwin
said. "It's tough to get out and start a positive relationship with an

On a Friday night in August, one of those walking was Leon Hall, 51,
who owns a landscaping company.

"I've seen our streets just go to shambles," Hall said. "I want to
make a difference."

The youngest member that night was Chester Byrd, 34, who said he wants
to see his young boys, ages 11 and 12, grow up in a better
environment. Byrd often runs into former classmates as he participates
in the street patrol, and while he gets some teasing, he said he's not
embarrassed by what he's doing.

"I've been out in the streets myself," Byrd said. "I don't want to see
my kids come up the way I came up." 
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