By Deidre Williams

News Staff Reporter

In the event of a disaster, a properly trained community is a surviving community.

That’s the driving principle behind the Community Disaster and Emergency Preparedness Project organized by the United Black Men’s Think Tank of Buffalo.

It connects Masten District residents with nearby block clubs and churches to provide emergency management guidance after disasters big and small, natural or man-made.

“This is a systematic way for people to know where to go if something happens,” said Bernadine J. Kennedy, the management consultant and event planner who will serve as the project’s program manager. She developed the idea of joining churches with block clubs to form a cohesive bond with Masten District residents.

The project will be launched at an informational meeting for block club representatives from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday in the Delavan-Grider Community Center, 877 E. Delavan Ave.

Masten Council Member Demone Smith and United Black Men’s Think Tank of Buffalo partnered with representatives from more than 25 churches and faith-based organizations to organize the project.

The system works like this: Each of the 101 block clubs in Masten selects a representative to be the disaster coordinator. The coordinators then are assigned to one of the 25 churches in close proximity to their respective block clubs.

The faith-based groups will serve as emergency management training centers and will become repositories of the kinds of things people need when disaster strikes. They will store bottled water, batteries, candles, blankets, toiletries and dry goods. To pay for the items, churches are asked to collect special offerings twice a month, so the effort becomes self-sustaining.

“The thought process was to work with churches and make them a hub,” and the block clubs around the churches will act as “spokes of the hub,” said L. Nathan Hare, acting director of the Think Tank and executive director of the Community Action Organization of Erie County.

When an emergency occurs, residents reach out to their block club representatives, who notify their respective churches, which also will provide the “spiritual guidance often needed to help people cope with misfortune and loss,” said the Rev. James A. Lewis, spiritual adviser of the Think Tank. The emergencies can include natural disasters like floods, tornadoes, hurricanes or blizzards. They can also involve other, more personal crises like homicides, other untimely deaths and unforeseen job loss that can be devastating for a family.

The Think Tank, which meets the first and third Saturdays of each month, is not a service provider focused on one issue. Rather, it is a catalyst for the men to analyze various issues and come up with ideas to address them, Hare said.

For now, the CDEPP project focuses primarily on Masten District residents, churches and block clubs, but once the plan is completed, it can be implemented in other parts of the city and county.

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