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Taking responsibility
Celebration focuses on men’s roles in families, community
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Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry (standing at right) recites the fatherhood pledge on the steps of the Martinsville Municipal Building on Saturday. Men in the crowd raised their right hands and repeated the pledge after him. (Bulletin photo)

Sunday, June 8, 2014


A week before Father’s Day, the importance of dads to their wives, children and community was celebrated in uptown Martinsville on Saturday.

The Men of Standard Fatherhood Celebration was sponsored by Martinsville Redevelopment and Housing Authority and the Give Back Foundation.

Chad Martin, who is affiliated with the Give Back Foundation and helped organize the event, said its goal was to allow men to dedicate or re-dedicate themselves to being better men, fathers, husbands and leaders.

The centerpiece of the event was a pledge ceremony on the steps of the Martinsville Municipal Building. About 75 people gathered there, including women and children who watched as men raised their hands and vowed to take full responsibility for themselves, their wives and their children.

As Henry County Sheriff Lane Perry read the pledge, the men promised to love, protect, serve and teach their children to be productive members of society; to be faithful to their wife and “be willing to lay down my life for her to reflect the love and respect I have for her”; work to provide for their families; learn from their mistakes; and more.

“The words mark your commitment. Remember them,” Perry urged those present.

Melvin Johnson of Bassett, who works at Patrick Henry Community College, was among those who took the pledge. It is important for several reasons, including showing support for other men, he said.

He noted that many fathers are missing in the community, in some cases due to the lack of education, which may lead to bad decisions, and some are incarcerated. That, he said, impacts the family structure and children’s upbringing.

A lot the ideas in the pledge “go along with my lifestyle so it is easy for me to adopt” the vows, said Johnson, who has three children.

Kenneth Moore of Martinsville agreed. He said he has been estranged from some family members but “I will try to be a better example with God’s help.”

Though Martin is not a father, he said his experiences working in the community have taught him the value of having a strong male presence in a child’s life.

Through his work with the Strengthening Families program at Piedmont Community Services (PCS), Martin said, he has seen “parents’ eyes opening up to how they should talk to their children, how children should talk to their parents ... bringing that family unit together. It’s just a beautiful, amazing thing.”

Saturday marked the second year the Give Back Foundation has helped present the Fatherhood Celebration, Martin said. The reading of the fatherhood pledge often is an emotional moment, he added.

“One of the ladies, she actually sat back and cried, just with joy and adoration watching those men stand up and sign those resolutions and proclamations,” Martin said. “Some of our volunteers have never had a father in the home. For them to sign the resolution and stand beside other men who have signed, it really helps them and does their hearts good.”

A stable home life is crucial for a child’s development, Martin said. He cited Dr. Murray Bowen’s “Family Systems” theory, which states that families are intensely emotionally connected and dependent on one another.

If a member of the family is missing or dysfunctional, he said, it affects the entire family, not just that one person.

“If the father isn’t there, that’s a problem,” he said. “If the mother isn’t there, that’s a problem. It’s a cycle; it’s a structure. You have to have that structure in place.”

School dropout rates also tend to increase when one parent is absent from the home, Martin said.

Martinsville Mayor Kim Adkins and Assistant City Manager Wayne Knox welcomed those present. Adkins said the city council has passed a proclamation in support of the importance of fatherhood.

Community Fellowship Pastor Michael Harrison also spoke, and urged those present to make a commitment to God, their families and themselves.

Martin said he hoped more people would attend the event, but he added that if it helps one person change, it will have been a success.

Saturday’s celebration kicked off with a breakfast and panel discussion at Soul Winners Church at 704 E. Church St., followed by the march to the Martinsville Municipal Building.

The event ended with a “Family Fun Day” at the Bridge Street parking lot, featuring live music, inflatables, father-son/father-daughter two-on-two basketball games, strong man competitions and other activities.


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