By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD — An organization that encourages men to be the best fathers they can be is expanding its efforts into some of the city’s most impoverished areas.
“Seven years ago, I was on a mission trip in Los Angeles and worked with some awesome organizations,” Fatherhood Encouragement Project CEO Dan Petrie said. “They had this program called Adopt-A-Block LA. Every Saturday this organization went into the housing developments and loved them up and connected with youth.”
Inspired by what he saw in California, Petrie decided to launch Adopt-A-Block in Rockford. On April 21, the Fatherhood Encouragement Project will partner with the City of Rockford, Winnebago County, Comcast, Life Church, and the Rockford Police Department to adopt 24 at-risk neighborhoods beginning with a four-block area between Seventh Street and 12th Avenue.
“This area had 44 violent crimes reported in January of this year,” Petrie said. “The area is covered with domestic abuse, violent crime, and both drug and sex trafficking. It’s ranked the sixth worst neighborhood for poverty and crime in the United States.”
Duties for the day include tree trimming, pulling weeds and landscaping. At the end of the day, volunteers and residents will be treated to a block party with food, refreshments, music and inflatable attractions for the kids.
“We want to empower these residents to take back this area and sometimes when an area has been bad for so long they just need a little encouragement and a little boost,” Petrie said. “We are going to connect these neighbors to themselves to help bring restoration and relationship.”
The project needs between 350 and 500 volunteers. Those interested in volunteering can register through Comcast, by visiting FatherhoodEncouragementproject.org, or emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org. For each volunteer who signs up, Comcast will donate $20 to the cause.
The Fatherhood Encouragement Project has helped 6,000 families, mentored over 100 fathers, connected over 500 inner-city kids to summer programs and fed and clothed over 500 homeless all in just 2 1/2 years. The organization mentors parents along an expansive spectrum. There’s everyone from ex-felons to doctors and lawyers, Petrie said. Each is learning to be a stronger, affirming parent and the group continues to grow.
In addition to meeting weekly and taking party in community-service events, the project holds an annual awards banquet, which is also a fundraiser. The goal for the Adopt-A-Block project is to complete all 24 target areas by the end of year. R.