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CHURCH BEGINS DRIVE TO FUND GOLF OUTINGS

A prominent East Side church has begun a drive to help inner-city kids learn golf on county courses, now that county parks are closed.

The church is selling $10 T-shirts that say, "Erie County -- Where the Poor Pay and the Rich Play." The money will pay for a "Golf Ball" for inner-city kids on county golf courses.

"It's just like a slap in the face for the families that live in this county and pay taxes but can't enjoy themselves by using county land," said the Rev. Darius Pridgen, pastor of True Bethel Baptist Church on East Ferry Street.

"If the only place this county will afford families and youth to enjoy recreation this summer is going to be on the golf courses, we're kind of forced to use them," Pridgen said. "We will take as many inner-city kids as we can afford to the golf courses for days of fun and frolic."

Several people have come forward to sponsor buses and pay the greens fees, he said, as calls come in from the city and suburbs.

The congregation is also pushing the county to open another auto bureau, as well as some parks for public use other than golf. It has gathered more than 1,000 petition signatures.

"You know, rich people don't stand in auto bureau lines -- they send somebody else," Pridgen said. "It's the middle class and the poor who have to stand in line -- and then to have only one office open, and it's in Cheektowaga. . . . Why not open up a new auto bureau on the East Side? There's plenty of empty buildings."

e-mail: acardinale@buffnews.com

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