The name is a mouthful, the aim is simple: To reach troubled souls on inner city streets and show them a better way.

MAD DADS is an acronym for Men Against Destruction, Defending Against Drugs and Social disorder. It was started 10 years ago in Omaha, Neb., by a group of concerned African-American fathers. The group's fifth annual convention officially kicks off here Thursday morning. About 300 people are expected to attend.

The three-day convention in the Adam's Mark Hotel features workshops, speeches and youth activities. Featured speakers, aside from local officials, include national MAD DADS president Eddie Staton; Pedro Perez, 1998 New York State Police Officer of the Year; and Tyrone Powers, author of "Eyes to My Soul; The Rise and Fall of a Black FBI Agent."

MAD DADS has grown to 57,000 members, with chapters in 16 states. The Buffalo chapter, headed by Dwayne Ferguson, started two years ago and has 25 active members. The men take to the streets two nights a week.

"We're out there to make contact," said Ferguson, adding that the group has no policing function. "If we save just one soul a day, we've done our job."

"We try to link people up with jobs, school, whatever they need," said Deacon James Giles of the Buffalo MAD DADS. "We want them to see that there's more out there than what they've got."

They tell the addicted about drug and alcohol programs, try to steer high school dropouts into GED programs and direct the unskilled to job-training agencies. MAD DADS also provides job leads, including a pipeline to the We Care Transportation Co. on East Amherst Street. We Care president Jon Arnet is a MAD DADS member.

"MAD DADS seeks to present men as positive role models," said convention chairman L. Nathan Hare, "as well as (provide) a visible presence . . . against the negative forces destroying our children, our homes and our communities."