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How Local Support Saved the Fathers First Program

By Aaron Fallon  On 3/8/2017


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Finding out he was going to become a father changed Kenyatta Cole’s life. He joined Fathers First to help build the skills he knew would help him be the best father he could be. However, there very nearly was no Fathers First program for him to join.

In September of 2015 Fathers First saw its strong renewal application refused funding in the very same week it was asked to share some of its innovative programming at a national conference. The loss of five years’ funding totaling millions of dollars was a huge blow to what had become one of TAP’s most successful and beloved programs. Despite facing an enormous funding shortfall, the program has remained operational since then—thanks in large part to local donations and TAP’s general fund.

Fathers First program manager Nick Kline has seen changes in the lives of hundreds of fathers who have come through the program, which gives participants the tools and skills they need to be great parents. “Dads are a real underserved population—especially in this area,” he says.

The challenges facing new fathers are certainly not simple ones. Classes address not only parenting, but everything else fathers need in order to give their children a stable, healthy home, with a course list that includes workshops on: job readiness, and how to keep their jobs while making time to parent; co-parenting; discipline; and how to communicate with children. Because home life is so crucial to a child’s social, emotional, and academic foundations, Fathers First represents an amazing chance to not only help the current generation of fathers, but build the foundation for the next generation, too.

Kenyatta Cole joined the program in 2016, completing it shortly before his daughter Harmony was born. He talks about how his experience in Fathers First helped him realize his vision of how a good father should act. “The main thing I took from the class,” he says, “is selflessness. You learn how to put your family, maybe your job, career, school in front of unnecessary things that you may yourself want.”

We see every day what a difference TAP programs make in helping low-income families reach their goals, and how that makes life better for everyone here in the Valley. Local donations to the general fund allow us to bring in larger grants by meeting their match requirements, and help keep great programs like Fathers First going even when the federal grants fall through.

“For a while it looked like we were going to be stranded,” Kline says, looking back on when they were informed the program’s funding would not be renewed. But thanks to local support, Fathers First is still open for business, and fathers like Kenyatta Cole can concentrate on what they need to do to be great dads to their sons and daughters.

With more funding, we will be able to help more people like Kenyatta. To make a donation to TAP on Roanoke Valley Gives Day on March 15th, visit https://rvgives.givebig.org/c/rvgives/a/tapintohope Learn more about Kenyatta in this story from WDBJ7.



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