August 24, 2017

South Carolina fatherhood program helps get sons and daughters ready for going back to school

The Midlands Fatherhood Coalition, which is a program of the South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families, recently partnered with a barber shop and a salon to give teens free haircuts and grooming to get them ready to go back to school. The Chronicle-Independent published the following article about the back-to-school event.

Free haircuts and fatherhood success intersect at JTC

August 21, 2017

BY MARTIN L. CAHN

The day before classes started in Kershaw County, a number of teens stopped by the Jackson Teen Center (JTC) across from Camden High School (CHS) to get more prepared school. They weren’t coming to pick up supplies, but to get something that would make them feel a little better about themselves, a little more special.

Thanks to a partnership with the Midlands Fatherhood Coalition, Another Level Barber Shop of Camden and Salon B&S of Columbia, male students got new haircuts and female students got new hairdos and their nails done.

Even though this was the first year Another Level has helped out with giving haircuts to new and returning Kershaw County students, proprietor Lushan “Lucci” McEachern has a long history with JTC Brian Mayes and his charges. McEachern has acted as the host of Camden’s annual step shows and competitions, which Mayes sponsors.

The grooming started around noon, with Mayes sitting down to get one of the first haircuts. While McEachern worked not only on Mayes’ hair, but trimmed his beard and moustache, Sterling Council cut Camden High School freshman Isiah Woods’ hair.

If Council’s name sounds familiar, it’s because he was an All-State selection during his senior basketball season at CHS and later played for the University of South Carolina-Aiken where he was named to the Peach Belt Conference’s first-team basketball squad. In 2013, Council signed with the Emerald Coast Knights, an American Basketball League team out of Destin, Fla.

Since then, Council has offered the Beyond the Court summer basketball camp through the Kershaw County Parks and Recreation Department. For several days each June, Council teaches boys and girls, 6-17, the fundamentals of basketball and aspects of life “beyond the court.” He places an emphasis on physical skills and techniques, proper training and conditioning, positive mental attitudes, healthy lifestyles and good sportsmanship.

Now, Council is an intervention specialist with the Midlands Fatherhood Coalition. He is the coalition’s first intervention specialist in Kershaw County, having been hired about a year ago. As such, he helps parents -- mostly fathers, as the coalition’s name would suggest -- to succeed at becoming accountable to their children.

Before getting his new job, Council was working with the Department of Social Services (DSS), helping the agency to track down non-custodial parents to meet their child support obligations.

“I ended up on a retreat where the coalition made a presentation about helping fathers instead of putting them in jail,” Council said. “Not long after, a lady at work said there was a job opening and had I ever heard of them.”

Within two weeks, Council had a new job, but nowhere from which to work. The coalition maintains offices in Aiken, Columbia (its headquarters), Lexington, Sumter and Winnsboro. Those offices serve 16 counties, including Kershaw County, but the coalition does not maintain a physical office here.

“After he got with the coalition, Sterling came to us and said he didn’t have any space,” Mayes said. “I said, ‘Well, you do now.’ He holds a group session in one of our classrooms every Wednesday.”

Among the many subjects Council might discuss during one of his sessions is job readiness and employment. One of the many ways he might help a father get a job or a better one, if they are underemployed, is to make sure they are properly groomed for an interview. So, he’s added haircutting to his skill set.

When Mayes began putting together the Aug. 16 “Back to School Dress and Groom Day” event for students, Council volunteered to help out along with McEachern.

Not long after Council finished cutting Isiah’s hair, it was the ladies’ turn. Salon B&S Keosha Walter and Khadijah Dinkins worked on new looks for students Zaniah Boykin and Jy Nunely. Mayes’ wife, Roberta Langley-Mayes, later thanked Walter and Dinkins on Facebook. The Mayes have known Dinkins for many years.

“Today was one of the busiest days for hair stylists and barbers, but these ladies sacrificed their pay for today to make sure a few of our kids were ready for school tomorrow,” Langley-Mayes posted that afternoon. “A lot of people say that we are in this together, but these ladies, Khadijah Dinkins and Keosha Walters, and young man Sterling Council proved that we are!”

Even before she got her hair done, Zaniah had her nails done by Langley-Mayes, So did Bethany McDaniels.

By the time Council and McEachern had made way for Walter and Dinkins, Midlands Fatherhood Coalition Assistant Executive Director Charles Brown had shown up along with intervention specialists Jeremiah Edwards, from Aiken, and Larry Felder, from Orangeburg.

Brown said the coalition’s main goal is to have parents, primarily fathers, actively involved in their children’s lives. In addition to job and education issues, the coalition focuses on healthy relationship building, financial stability and how to navigate family court issues, including child support and visitation.

Brown said the coalition works to create a “One Man Plan,” where interventionists like Council, Edwards and Felder work with participants on a one-on-one basis.

“We give them goals and objectives they need to reach within a timeline for them to meet,” Brown said. “We eliminate excuses.”

The coalition even holds a “boot camp” for the unemployed or underemployed where they go through a job simulation between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

“We evaluate them to see if we can help match them to a job,” Brown said.

Services are free; the only “fee” is taking the time and making a commitment to reach the goals. Brown said the coalition is funded through a combination of grants and private donations. The coalition used a special DSS grant in order to expand services into Kershaw County and hire Council.

“Right now, our work here is just outreach, but if it grows, we may go back to our grantors and ask for help in establishing a physical office,” Brown said.

Felder said a common theme among their clients is a mentality of not having to be accountable.

“Some of them feel entitled; others want to pay (child support), but they can’t afford to,” Felder said. “We try to get them to see that they have no choice.”

Once they see that, he said, the coalition works with them to get them to a point of meeting their obligations.

Brown pointed out that, in many cases, fathers who haven’t been as accountable to their children haven’t been properly fathered themselves.

“They’ve had no example,” he said.

Council said while he is working primarily with young men, the median age of his clients is 33.

“I tell them, ‘I’m not going to chase you, but I’m here to help you,” Council said.

Mayes said he is glad that, as the JTC has worked to improve the lives of at-risk teenagers, Council and the Midlands Fatherhood Coalition is on hand to begin working with young adults.

He was also glad to see that the students who came by on Aug. 16 -- including Bethany, Isiah, Jy and Zaniah -- appeared happy to head back to school with new haircuts, hairdos and polished nails.

Mayes also announced that the JTC was set to launch a new fall football league; practice was supposed to have started Monday.

The South Carolina Center for Fathers and Families is a Ministry of the Sisters of Charity Health System.

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