MAD DADS outreach pulls community into Urban Ventures programs

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It is amazing to be in the presence of this group of men called MAD DADS (Men Against Destruction Defending Against Drugs & Social Disorder), as they do their part in assisting people with turning their lives into positive actions. Many are starting to notice MAD DADS’ ever growing community presence, which includes riding the more-traveled bus lines, allowing them to interact with many city youth.

Ed Northington, leader of the Peace Bus public transit-riding group, explains, “We ride the bus for a variety of reasons, including [getting people to sign] up for our Tuesday support groups for men and women, our Thursday evening Family Time, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters.”

The Family Time support group is a new program at the Urban Ventures Family Center, where MAD DADS is headquartered, that includes a parenting education component. They meet every Thursday at 6 pm and include dinner and childcare. The Tuesday MAD DADS support groups also include dinner and meet from 5 to 7 pm.

“Riding the…bus just the other day, a young man got off the bus and somehow managed to get in and out of the liquor store and re-board, immediately opening his bottle of liquor,” recalls Northington. “We are not the police, but there is right and there is wrong. I asked him not to open his bottle and drink on the bus, out of respect for the other passengers. His only other option was to get off the bus, which he subsequently did.

“With incidents like this, we have the bus company pull the tape of the incident and report it to our [president] V.J. Smith,” he continued. “This was not a tough call for us, in that we felt this young man was totally disrespecting everybody else, especially the kids and the elderly. I think we are doing a great community service by riding the buses and making people feel safe and comfortable with our presence.”

Northington and fellow MAD DADS member Minister K.G. received awards on January 15 from the national MAD DADS organization (there are 16 chapters nationally) for setting standards in the community and exemplifying the mission, goals and objectives of the MAD DADS organization.

In July of last year, Northington happened upon a gas station robbery in which he pursued and subdued the 18-year-old robbery suspect, who had a gun. This young man received a boot camp sentence and probably had his life saved as a result of Northington’s action.

As MAD DADS President V.J. Smith said, “We have 2008. A lot of us get to see it. We have a lot of great kids involved. We have a lot of great parents providing for their kids and doing an excellent job. I commend them for their efforts of 2007. We also have men and women in treatment facilities who are struggling with addictions, and who will be coming back to our community in a strong and positive way ready to contribute to our efforts.”

There are many programs available at the Urban Ventures Family Center that complement MAD DADS’ mission of building positive and productive communities. Tuesday evenings is also the time for the group WATE (Women Advancing Toward Excellence). There also is a Spanish-speaking fathers group that meets every Wednesday from 6 to 8 pm.

New programs starting in March include “Cognitive Thinking and Anger Management” and a basic computer training program.

For more information on programs at the Urban Ventures Family Center for Development, call Twarna at 612-455-4640 or go to www.urbanventures.org. For more information about MAD DADS, call 612-822-0802 or go to www.mplsmaddads.org.

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