ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The Fatherhood Connection is an organization addressing the fatherlessness of young men who suffered from inconsistencies in their families growing up.
Executive Director Reggie Cox goes around to groups in the community asking questions about the issue.
"What is the purpose of a male? That's what we're asking you today," said Cox.
"The purpose of a male is to be there in tough situations," responded Nehemian Brown, a member of the Hillside Community Group.
Cox speaks to men of all ages about some tough topics, such as abandonment. It leaves 18.4 million children to grow up without a father figure in their life, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Cox got a sense of this as a kid.
"My father was an alcoholic," Cox said. "His father was an alcoholic. His father didn't tell him that he loved him until he was 50-years-old."
Cox says his father is now his hero, which is what led him to want to re-establish the idea of a father for more men and to help prevent generations of absence.
"Fatherlessness impacts at least six areas: that’s the crime, poverty, substance abuse, teenage pregnancy, education [and] academic achievement," Cox said. "So these factors you have to address or your child will begin to strive to be connected elsewhere.”
Cox explains that he goes into the community as part of Fatherhood Connection to have those tough conversations with men across the state. He has been going to schools, recreational centers and community spaces since 2010 when the organization was created. He says funding from Rochester's Peace Collective will help him reach more individuals and train more people to help people experiencing fatherlessness.
Darryl Fields is a member of the Hillside Community Group, who says he can relate to people growing up without a father.
“My father left for five years out of my life which had played an impact of me feeling like I had no male figure there for a while,” Fields explained.
The Fatherhood Connection reminds men of the pain of inconsistencies by relating to their own personal experiences.
“Even at the age of 62, I’m still peeling the onion from issues of abandonment and rejection and it [doesn't] just go away," Cox says as he reminds others of the power of their decisions and inspiring change in their futures.
"I feel like people have to be more mindful, myself included, of how your actions affect your future," Brown said. “I feel like he’s speaking from it and he was able to actually, you know, change it, and I feel like I’ve listened to him. I actually do want to actually change stuff.”
Darryl Fields has similar feelings.
"Tonight I learned people from different backgrounds who have similar stories [who] learned to handle those situations on their own and like was able to take guidance and saving actions from someone else," Fields said.
The program has been showing encouraging results after just one class spent listening to Cox's experiences.
"Ten out of 10, I would recommend," said Brown.
The Fatherhood Connection has locations in several counties throughout Western New York. For more information, click here.