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Summit focuses on fathers
Taking part in a panel on the importance of fatherhood were (from left) Tony Martin, a single father; Tacara Gravely, a single mother; Larry Compter with the Marriage Alliance of Central Virginia; Virginia Department of Social Services Program Manager Curtis Smith; Susan Reese, regional representative with the Virginia Department of Social Services; and the Rev. Larry Ponds, past moderator for the Disciples of Christ Church in Eden, N.C. (Bulletin photo by Ashley Jackson)
Monday, June 11, 2012
By ASHLEY JACKSON - Bulletin Staff Writer
Tony Martin’s father was not around when he was growing up, and he knows the impact that can have on a child.
“That’s why I want to be there for my kids ... and show them the tools to be successful,” he said at a summit on Friday.
The summit, held at Moral Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Axton, focused on the importance of fatherhood and creating strong families. It was held thanks to an initiative that is part of a grant from the Virginia Department of Social Services to help strengthen families across Virginia, according to Patricia Carter, executive director of For the Children Partners in Prevention Inc.
Martin, 29, of Martinsville, is a single father raising four children, two of whom are twins. At the summit, he was part of a panel discussion, facilitated by Virginia Department of Social Services Program Manager Curtis Smith, on the importance of having two parents in a child’s life.
Each parent has certain attributes that a child needs, Martin told about 100 people who attended the event.
Panelist Tacara Gravely, 21, of Martinsville, a single mother raising two children, said in her opinion, if a daughter doesn’t have her father, she will look for an older man later in life to fill the void. Sons need their father to provide structure, discipline and a stern voice that helps guide them, she added.
“That’s the universal plan” that God put in place — for a man and woman to get married, have children and raise them together, said the Rev. Larry Ponds, past moderator for the Disciples of Christ Church in Eden, N.C.
Structure, discipline and the ability to make sacrifices are the keys to making it through life, Ponds added.
Between raising her children, working and attending Patrick Henry Community College, “it’s very hard,” Gravely said. But she has a supportive family that helps her manage, she added.
The important thing is “to be comfortable with who you are” and never think that it’s going to be easy because it’s not, Gravely said.
After becoming a mother and dealing with the hardships, she finally realized she needed to pick herself up and get help from available programs, Gravely said. Through the programs at PHCC and social services, she has been able to get her children into day care and give her grandparents the break from helping her that they deserve, she added.
One out of four children in Virginia has at least one parent absent in his life, according to Susan Reese, regional representative from the Virginia Department of Social Services, who was among the panelists.
Ponds said it breaks his heart to know that there are men out there thinking “that fathering children and moving on makes them a man.” Everyone in society needs to get back to being “the best that we can be and not be like someone else,” he added.
A challenge to getting both parents engaged in their children’s lives is that television shows and movies are portraying men as incompetent and lazy instead of as good role models, which is creating a cultural standard, said panelist Larry Compter of the Marriage Alliance of Central Virginia.
Once men can come away from that image, they can begin to see that being a man means protecting those you love and controlling your anger, Compter said.
The panel also spoke about the role of grandparents if a father is not present.
Gravely feels that grandparents and parents need to come together, with the grandparents primarily providing guidance to the parent, she said.
It’s important for grandparents to be there to assist, be advisers and be role models for the children, Reese said.
To strengthen families, Ponds’ church has taught them about time management because it is vital to make time for one’s family; healthy living because if a parent is sick, it takes away from his or her ability to nurture the family; controlling finances; and developing a spiritual culture that focuses on who they are as a person instead of looking at the past.
Also, men, women and children at Ponds’ church participate in activities such as listing things that they like and dislike about their lives. Once each family member sees the strengths they have in their lives and the things that need improvement, they can work together to implement change, Ponds said. When a family “works as a unit,” it can be guided, Ponds added.
Friday’s event was sponsored by For the Children, Black Family Preservation Group and the Martinsville-Henry County Fatherhood Task Force.