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Eager to find ways to improve their neighborhoods, members of block clubs and neighborhood groups sat in workshop after workshop Saturday, absorbing information and exchanging phone numbers and ideas.

The countywide United Neighborhoods conference "Into the Light: Neighborhoods Rebuilding the City of Light" served as a meet-and-greet for more than 250 block club and tenant council members from around the area who gathered in Erie Community College City Campus.

"Our goal is to get people from different communities to exchange stories and network," said Shakoor Aljuwani, director of United Neighborhoods. "We haven't been able to do that in this area."

The daylong conference focused on the importance of sharing skills, with more than 15 workshops that touched on community and neighborhood organizational issues and topics, such as crime prevention, grant writing, accessing the media and time management. Following the attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., a disaster preparedness workshop was added to the conference's schedule.

"Time is more than time," said Elizabeth Triggs, who conducted the time management workshop, which about 25 people attended. "Time is power, business and opportunity. You have to be on time for these block club meetings, and you have to respect others and manage your time."

Many in attendance came away from the event ready to put the ideas to use.

"This is a great way to bring us together," said Patricia Tango, a resident of the Lyndon B. Johnson Apartments on Humboldt Parkway, "so that we can take back our city and make it livable. People are in fear."

It was the agency's first countywide conference and its fourth year organizing a conference in Buffalo.

The resource agency, at 1020 Main St., provided more than 600 block clubs last year with services ranging from free meeting rooms to a computer training center to educational workshops and speakers.

Aljuwani said the conference also familiarized participants with the city's Good Neighborhood Planning Council, a part of its comprehensive plan, which he said will play a vital role in the future of the city.


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