See "Program’s aim: More father time" at Omaha.com:
Leaders of the effort hope to counter long-term trends of increasing numbers of children growing up without fathers, said Chip Maxwell, executive director of the initiative and a former senator and Douglas County Board member.
They’ll start simply — with weekly informal basketball games at Jesuit Middle School, 2311 N. 22nd St., for sons and their fathers or other father-figures in their lives. The organizers said tthat hey hope the boys and men will bond in the Home Team Sports Club and that the initiative can help link the families with services they might need. They want to expand the program to other sports and activities.
“The basketball is just a vehicle for getting people together,” Maxwell said. “The relationship is the thing. For those who are estranged, we hope to help re-introduce in the young men’s lives the stabilizing factor of a father or a father figure.”
James Karnegis, a retired Omaha cardiologist and long-time Masonic leader, came up with the idea. He said he believes trends in American family structures — of children being born to unwed mothers and growing up without fathers — “will destroy our country” if they continue.
A nonprofit group formed by Masonic organizations, the Omaha Masonic Community Center Foundation, will sponsor the initiative.
Members of the Prince Hall Lodge, a historically African-American group of Masons based at 2418 Ames Ave. that gives college scholarships among other community service, are among the leaders and volunteers in the initiative being announced at 9 a.m. Saturday at Jesuit Middle School.
There are many good efforts aimed at reducing violence in north Omaha, and this one focuses specifically on fatherhood, said Eric Critchlow, grand master of Prince Hall Lodge and a member of the Fatherhood-Family Initiative’s board of directors.
“We need strong male leadership in the city,” Critchlow said. “We want to try to unite the father with the child, get them off the street, give them some positive guidance and leadership, have them do more things with their kids and become more a family unit.”
Once volunteers get to know the families, they might learn ways that they can use their community and Mason connections to help them find jobs or get needed services, said Fred Wisdom, a Prince Hall member who will volunteer as a coach and mentor.
The program is for boys in fourth through 12th grades, and there is a $5 annual membership fee. Any son and father or father figure (such as an uncle or grandfather) may participate. Organizers want the boys to choose who participates with them, but it can’t be a different person each time, Maxwell said. Organizers deliberately are not providing outside mentors or father figures, because their purpose is to help build family relationships, he said.