- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Staff writer Denise Barnes interviewed Rodney K. Taylor, founder and president of the Working Men Who Care Inc.

Question: How did the Working Men Who Care come about?

Answer: During the summer of 2001, a group of guys, which included firefighters, policemen, postal workers and lawyers decided to get together for weekly games of touch football. Shortly thereafter, the tragic events of 9/11 took place, followed by the anthrax epidemic. …

We decided to try and make a positive impact on the lives of others. In 2001, we established the Working Men’s Social Club and after getting our nonprofit status, the Working Men Who Care came into existence on Dec. 23, 2001.

Q:What’s the goal of the Working Men Who Care Inc.?

A: Our goal is to reach as many youth who live in the Washington metropolitan area and guide them in the right direction.

We’re concerned about the absence of fathers in the home and how children from single-parent households are more likely to get involved in crime, experience high dropout rates and are at greater risk of drug use.

The statistics are disturbing. We have noticed that children from two-parent homes have a better chance academically, financially, socially and emotionally. So what we’ve done is designed several programs to get more men involved in youth early education and socialization.

Q: What programs do you offer?

A: We have programs for all segments of the community, which range from mentoring youth to honoring our seniors with an annual Senior Appreciation Day, where we visit senior centers in the area for a day of music, food and fun.

Each year, we sponsor “Fellas Day Out” for youth, which includes a variety of educational sessions conducted by qualified, experienced professionals. Topics run the gamut from HIV/AIDS prevention to college preparation.

We also include a town-hall component and the participants have an opportunity to address a panel of speakers during a structured question-and-answer session. Our programs receive the full support of the D.C. Fire and EMS [Department] who participate in every event that we sponsor.

Another one of our programs targeted towards both young ladies and men is “Project Reality Check,” which addresses the problem of juvenile imprisonment head-on. We sponsor seven field trips to the correctional treatment facility in Southeast for youth between the ages of 8 and 21. Our program is modeled after the “Scared Straight program” initiated in 1979 under the direction of Rahway State Prison [in New Jersey]. …

We also sponsor “Project Help A Family.” In this case, we feed the homeless at D.C. Village each Columbus Day. We host this event with various sponsors, which include D.C. Fire and EMS and the Correctional Corporation of America.

The youth volunteer and they receive community-service hours, which is applied to their school credits. It’s a daylong event that takes place in Southwest, the location of the District’s only emergency homeless family shelter.

Q: How many youth do you work with?

A: Over the course of a year, we touch at least 1,200 young people with the programs and activities that we host.

We go into the schools and into the recreation centers and talk with young people. Of course, many of us are already mentors and coaches.

Q: Have you made a difference?

A: Definitely. I have parents who call and just want me to talk to their children. I’ve had parents bring their children by the firehouse [Engine 33] and we give them a tour, have lunch and just talk to them.

With the boys, the absence of fathers and positive role models in the community leads to their poor behavior. A lot of children just need someone to talk to them, and that’s why we created these activities and programs to try and get more men actively involved in the mentoring process.

Although the majority of our programs are male-orientated, some of them do benefit young ladies, and we’re in the process of organizing the Working Women Who Care organization.

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