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An East Side Buffalo community organization has hired a new, full-time organizer after being awarded a $30,000 grant by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development -- a wing of Catholic Charities -- and funding from the Charles Stuart Mott Foundation.

After a two-month search, the group PRIDE (Preservation & Restoration Initiatives on the Developing Eastside) hired Ronald H. Fleming to find and cultivate new volunteers and community leaders in the Fillmore District to work on a number of local and national issues.

Fleming, publisher of Fine Print News, a Fillmore-area newspaper, and board president of Block Clubs of Buffalo and Erie County, ran unsuccessfully for a Fillmore District Common Council seat in 1997 and a Council Member at Large seat last year.

PRIDE, which has been in existence for about two years, has most recently attempted to tackle issues such as making U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development policies more uniform across the nation and reforming the Federal Housing Administration, according to Judy Ramirez, a part-time community organizer with PRIDE.

"We're trying to get HUD to start a credit watch program where it would look at lenders with exorbitant default rates and kick them out of the (HUD) program. We also want HUD to look at ways to monitor the realtors who hire appraisers that are overassessing properties," she said.

Ramirez said Fleming was currently in Chicago undergoing training for his new post.

The Rev. Joseph Sicari, associate director for Catholic Charities of Buffalo, said the Catholic Campaign for Human Development has awarded PRIDE a three-year grant that it will continue to receive "as long as the organization is progressing." Last year, the agency provided the group with seed money to conduct neighborhood surveys and seek training from outside agencies skilled in operating community-based organizations.

Ramirez said the award from the Charles Stuart Mott Foundation will provide the means for some PRIDE members to attend the National People's Action Conference April 7-11 in Washington, D.C.

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