When I first discovered Midlands Fatherhood Coalition in 2007, my life was a mess.
I was going through a separation from my wife of 11 years, which is hard enough. Then I lost my job in the retail industry, and everything just fell apart.
I found myself unable to make my child support payments, and trouble mounted fast. By the time I walked through the door of Midlands Fatherhood’s Lexington office, I owed $37,000. I was facing court, and possibly jail time. I had lost my driver’s license — something that happens to you when you’re behind on child support. That makes it awfully hard to look for a job so you can work your way out of the hole you’re in and do what you want to do most: support your family.
I was down and out financially, emotionally and spiritually. Society saw me as a “deadbeat dad.” But I wasn’t a deadbeat; I was dead broke. I loved my children as much as I ever had, and wanted the best for them. But I lacked the ability to provide for them financially.
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Then I became participant No. 83 in the fatherhood program. I’m sure I was the biggest challenge that Charles Brown, assistant director of Midlands Fatherhood, had ever seen.
This program saved my life.
Midlands Fatherhood showed me how to get where I wanted to be. It taught me how to find a job. It helped me deal effectively with the court system. It showed me how to get on my feet financially.
The group sessions with other fathers showed me that I was not alone. Most importantly, I learned that other men in my situation had turned their lives around and become the fathers and contributing citizens that I wanted to be.
I had always been in my children’s lives, but the fatherhood program taught me to be a better presence than I had ever been — and to communicate better and more constructively with their mother.
I got my license back, and I got a job, with Walmart in Batesburg-Leesville. I worked my way up to inventory management supervisor. I paid off my child support debt, which was like having a mountain lifted off my shoulders.
But nothing means as much as knowing that I’m now the dad my kids need me to be. I’m so proud of my children. My youngest son just graduated from Ridgeview High School, and will attend the University of South Carolina in the fall. His older sister just graduated from USC. And my eldest son has a burgeoning career as a rap artist, pursuing his dream up and down the East Coast.
I’ve been offered promotions, but that would entail moving to Arkansas, so I’ve stayed put. I don’t want to miss a moment with my family.
My experience has made me a deeply committed supporter of Midlands Fatherhood, and all of the fatherhood programs across our state that operate under the umbrella of the S.C. Center for Fathers and Families. I can’t thank Mr. Brown and the other program staff enough for all they have done for me. I appreciate everyone involved, including the Sisters of Charity Foundation, which had the vision years ago to address what it saw as South Carolina’s most challenging problem: fatherlessness.
I graduated from the program on Aug. 31, 2007, but I spread the news about the good work these folks do whenever and wherever I can. I meet men all the time who can use the help I received, and I steer them straight to Midlands Fatherhood.
The first thing I tell them is, help is available. Don’t give up. You’re not alone. You can rise above this. The fatherhood program is like a big family. You can open up. There’s no big “I”; there’s no little “you.” We’re all there for each other.
Today on Father’s Day, my plans are much like any other dad’s. I’ll fire up the grill, then just relax and enjoy my family. But I won’t be taking a bit of it for granted. And I’ll be thanking the Lord for showing me the way to Midlands Fatherhood Coalition.
Learn more about Midlands Fatherhood Coalition at celebratingfathers.com. Contact Mr. Lindsay at firstname.lastname@example.org.