Fatherhood network offers space to be vulnerable, resources to Kalamazoo dads


KALAMAZOO, MI — Kevin Lavender Jr. is a single father of 3 daughters.

In his journey of fatherhood, he was alienated from his oldest daughter for a period of time of six many years from the time she was 5 years outdated right until she was 11.

Lavender considers himself blessed to have reconnected and been ready to lately view her graduate from high faculty and cheer her on as she prepares for school.

Becoming estranged from her was just one of the most difficult points he has ever had to go by, he explained.

Lavender, who started the Fatherhood Community in Kalamazoo in 2015, did so with the intent of providing a assist method for other fathers. Fathers in the region who may well be going through identical boundaries blocking them from seeing their youngsters, or who want steering or fellowship from other fathers who are also dedicated to becoming active and engaged in their children’s lives.

“We know that each and every youngster is most healthful when they have both mothers and fathers healthier and actively engaged in their lives,” Lavender claimed.

“That’s what our top goal is. You may possibly be a organic mum or dad, you might be a surrogate, you could be a guardian. We’re right here to support alongside fathers, to affirm them in their position and stimulate them in their purpose, as properly as to even more equip and join them with resources to be successful in that job, whether or not they are a new dad or are a 50-yr-outdated dad.”

The corporation, which provides options to get together as gentlemen and fathers, as perfectly as comprehensive relatives models numerous situations a month during the calendar year, is open up to dads of all backgrounds, and is not confined to solitary fathers, but includes married or partnered fathers as nicely.

“It’s all about helping change dads to come to be improved and have interaction actively,” Lavender reported. “We’re here to join dads with sources, provide a space for social relationship, (help with) neighborhood setting up, host family members outings and to give dads a location to share and be susceptible and carry every other up.”

It was throughout the time in which Lavender was estranged from his oldest daughter exactly where the basis for the Fatherhood Community was laid, he stated.

“Through that discomfort and own anguish and likely by some deep, dim moments emotionally, I begun connecting with other fathers and getting out that there have been quite a few other people heading via the similar matter,” Lavender explained.

“God gave me the eyesight as a result of my own life journey, instructing me that I could do the function to help empower some others and that there is learning in ache and that there can be one thing wonderful that arrives out of suffering.

“We hope to make this sustainable so some others can choose ownership and keep on it for yrs to arrive.”

When the community to start with came collectively, Lavender and other fathers these kinds of as Jacob Pinney-Johnson, who serves as the network’s director of wellbeing and housing, hosted focus teams in neighborhoods throughout Kalamazoo. The aim teams ended up created with the intent to evaluate what the demands of fathers were being in the region.

The challenges recognized have been authorized advocacy, housing and work and grew to become the foundational pillars the Fatherhood Network was created on.

“It’s not one particular dimensions fits all when it comes to fatherhood,” claimed Pinney-Johnson, a father of two little ones below 10, who is navigating the issues of co-parenting with his ex-spouse.

“The community is here to assist lift fathers up. It is not about building any Alpha guy, solid father determine who is coming to help save the week, but it is definitely about us as males and fathers staying in a collective that lifts each and every other up in which we all have a thing to give and the place we can wrap all around those people who may possibly need a minimal added and when we can, you know, typically advocate also in the neighborhood, for housing, improved programs and expert services geared towards fathers precisely.”

Whilst summers are focused to relatives outings this sort of as baseball game titles, trips to the park and the roller rink, the relaxation of the calendar year, from September by way of Might is a time for bi-weekly dad cafes, held at the Douglass Local community Centre, exactly where fathers get alongside one another for two several hours at a time and enable their guard down, test-in with one an additional, share sources and swap stories.

“This software delivers fathers collectively and gives them an prospect to be themselves and display that they can be good mothers and fathers, and how to be respectable and good mothers and fathers,” mentioned Tony Hill, a 59-calendar year-old father of four, grandfather of 17 and excellent grandfather of four. “It even teaches the youthful folks how to be.

“People will convey their children. I provide my grandchildren. And when they appear about and see this type of things it presents them course. I typically listen to, ‘I learned how to be obedient. I discovered how to be steady, how to be truthful, how to be disciplined.’”

For Hill, regardless of his a few stepchildren and one particular biological boy or girl all currently being very well into adulthood, he will come on a regular basis to the father cafes for the reason that he understands the variance a present father can make.

“I appear from a broken family,” Hill said. “I never ever had a consistent gentleman in my existence rising up. I feel if I had a excellent father in my lifetime, another person that it’s possible is like I am today, points would have been various.”

Hill, who grew up in a tough part of St. Louis, reported by the time he was 10 a long time-previous, he was running with an older, tougher crowd. He expended his teen years making weak choices, and was associated in a gang, a little something that he did not begin to get out of till his daughter was born when he was just 19.

“I didn’t have no a person offering me like and knowing, which is what I educate nowadays. My mother was wonderful, but she experienced to do the job a whole lot to help raise three boys. I see a ton of children becoming led incorrect. They are misplaced. I walk some of these neighborhoods, man and there just isn’t any course.

“This is about give and consider, finding out and training, steering and way. You require to make your children a priority, know you’re not a weekend dad, not a element-time father, you’re a entire-time dad, it usually takes a good deal to do that but it (does not) just take a great deal.”

Whilst the Fatherhood Community is for people today from all ethnic and racial backgrounds, as perfectly as sexual orientations, numerous of their members, and all 4 associates of the network’s management workforce are Black males.

As this kind of, a single of the primary missions of the firm is to develop a counter narrative to the stereotype that Black fathers are not as present and engaged as other fathers, anything Lavender claimed is practically nothing more than a stereotype.

The team works difficult to solid a gentle on strong fathers in the local community, and assisting other folks turn out to be specifically that, he reported.

“My father was existing and singing and reading to me when I was in my mom’s stomach,” he claimed, referring to the Rev. Kevin Lavender Sr. of Bible Baptist Church in Kalamazoo.

“He’s an inspiration for all of the work I’m performing. His very own father died when he was at a pretty pivotal time (as a teenager), and he fully commited himself to staying current and active in his extremely have and imperfect way when he experienced his personal spouse and children. “It is vital for us to retain our households a priority within the local community work and to carry our young children together with us.”

Pinney-Johnson, whose late father David Johnson was a civil legal rights activist in the area, pointed to difficulties of racism and poverty as currently being key limitations that many adult men of colour have to triumph over in society.

“Those are massive difficulties,” he explained. “But possessing a healthier, engaged father in a child’s everyday living virtually cuts down the likelihood of toddler mortality, the chance of poverty, the probability of ending up in the prison justice technique. All of these things can have unique results when males are healthy and actively engaged in their child’s lives.

“Unfortunately, thanks to the socialization of men and where by we’re at, there’s not a lot of assist for fathers when we search close to the group. So, it’s critical that we wrap close to guys and fathers and make confident they have the assist and resources they will need, being familiar with the trickle-down result that parenting has on the children in our neighborhood.”

As section of that, Pinney-Johnson has released a transitional fathers housing initiative, which is looking for to support solitary fathers in need of housing as nicely as retain relatives models collectively when a relatives finds by themselves in a transitional scenario.

He claimed they recognize, like most people in the town and local community, that housing is a quite major concern.

“We actually want to be far more intentional about supporting unhoused men and women, but exclusively fathers, who form of slide through the cracks when it arrives to supportive housing,” Pinney-Johnson said.

“While there is transitional housing accessible, often moments fathers are questioned to separate from mother and child in transitional shelters. That is not a blanket illustration, but which is a single position we are doing work to make a variation.”

The organization, Lavender mentioned, could not exist without the lots of local community partners it functions with from Kalamazoo Youth Growth to Kalamazoo County’s Wholesome Infants, Healthier Begin to Kalamazoo County Great Begin Collaborative to the Douglass Community Affiliation.

For far more facts, take a look at thefatherhoodnetwork.org, e-mail [email protected] or connect with 269-261-0814.

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