A wartime support center is offering a salve to the city's black community, where the gulf war comes especially close to home.

Many people in Miami have loved ones fighting the war. Others simply identify with the sizable proportion of blacks in the military - 21 percent, nearly twice the 12 percent of blacks in the American population as a whole.Operation United Front, which opened last month in the Liberty City area, aims to help the community on a personal and social level. It has social workers, psychologists, mental-health workers and volunteer counselors. It holds support group meetings. Its casualty-notification team was assembled to comfort families who lose someone to the war.

The center also asked the Pentagon to help it identify local families with loved ones fighting in Operation Desert Storm. So far 51 families are participating in the support center, which welcomes all races.

"We decided not to take a political stand on the war, just to support the troops," said Dewey Knight III, a businessman coordinating fund raising for the center.

In the end, what matters are the community's needs, center coordinator Femi Browne said. "Whatever the view is, we wanted a place where anybody could feel comfortable, a place that would be a salve to the community."

The need is evident, particularly since the start of the ground war on Saturday, she said. "The anxiety levels have increased greatly; you can feel the opinions more," Browne said.