Katrina Wilson, CEO and president, of the Middletown-based nonprofit Freedom Community Development Corporation (CDC), surveyed the half-empty room Friday afternoon at the “Celebrating Fathers & Families,” and said it is exactly what she expected.
The event was part of Ohio’s Responsible Fatherhood Month (June) and a launch for the Butler County Fatherhood Initiative of the Ohio Commission on Fatherhood (OCF) project. Wilson said it will take time to reach the targeted audience.
“Sometimes these conferences may not be the right place to meet those with the greatest need,” Wilson said. “Let’s face it most of the people who come to the conferences have relationships with mentors or fathers figures in there lives. But we are excited to start the initiative here in Butler County and moving forward to raise awareness and develop leaders who can take the message out to those who need.”
She added that the Butler County Father Initiative will involve bringing together key stakeholders from various sectors within the community that serve families and children as well as fathers, families and the faith community.
“We will do an official launch of the initiative this fall with a series of community conversations and engagement of key stakeholders from various sectors within the community that serve families and children,” Wilson said. “We will rely on these experts to help guide the planning and implementation process.”
Cal Wills, 42, a father of two daughters, 16, 13 and two sons, 20, 18, said he was glad to be in attendance and said he will take with him some of the messages that he heard.
“I was hoping to learn something new and something to help me become a better father because I am still learning,” Wills said. “Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have a father growing up. I did learn something today, like we have resources available now. I will get that message out, especially to younger fathers.”
Kevin L. Aldridge, a pastor and motivational coach, was pleased to hear what Wills had to say. Aldridge had addressed the audience earlier and was drilling home to those fathers in attendance to fight the disconnect that can happen when becoming a father, but instead, embrace fatherhood and what it means to be a provider and parent.
“You are influenced by your past and if your past isn’t positive then you are going to repeat that more than likely,” Aldridge said. “I wanted fathers today to consider if their reference point is negative then how are they going to take the necessary steps to become whole again so they can be better fathers.”
State Sen. Bill Beagle, R-Tipp City, is one of the commissioners on the OCF. He told the audience Friday that the OCF has a budget of approximately $1 million. “Every year it is a challenged to keep the OCF in the budget because it is always on the chopping block.”
Beagle said he spent time as a stay-at-home parent and understands the challenges of fatherhood. He added that it will be important to keep well-detailed projects like the “Celebrating Fathers & Families” program going so they can be presented to lawmakers when funding is considered for the OCF.