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Groups hope mentors can step in for 'fatherless generation' in Elkhart County

Organizations are hoping more people will be mentors for youths who do not have both parents in their lives.

Some local organizations want more people to step up and make a difference in the lives of strangers.

Many kids are growing up without a mom or dad in their life in the U.S., and the same is true of local communities. The U.S. Census Bureau says almost 12 percent of households in Elkhart County are single-parent families.

That's higher than the national average. Leaders of local organizations say it doesn't take much to make a big difference.

"Too many kids are growing up without a dad in their life," said Bob Schrock, of DJ Construction. "There are all kinds of reasons for that to happen, but for whatever reason, there's not enough people yet stepping into those voids and those gaps."

Officials say sometimes, it only takes one minute or one person to make a change that'll last a lifetime.

"And potentially be the only person that they feel really cares about them," said Darrell Peterson of Lifeline Youth Ministries.

Peterson knows that feeling as he works with more than 400 kids a year through Lifeline Youth Ministries.

"It's just showing up. It's modeling life and it's being there for a young person," Peterson said.

FBI data shows that 70 percent of children who are in jail don't have a father figure in their life. Statistics show kids who are father-deprived are also twice as likely to quit school and 11 times more likely to be violent.

"We know that fathers matter. Unfortunately we know not every kid has one. So if we can put somebody in their life that can help fill that void, just to show them affirmation, give them courage and encouragement, let them know they're believed in," Schrock said.

It's why Benjamin Shank volunteers his time to mentor.

"If you look at men in general in our communities, we're losing the battle. No one's standing up and being who they should be as fathers, as men, as leaders of our community and it shouldn't be that way. It should change," Benjamin Shank, a mentor with Fight Club.

John Sowers hopes he can help make that change happen.

He authored a book called the "Fatherless Generation," and trains men and women all over the country on how to be mentors through a program called "The Mentoring Project."

"When you're showing up for somebody, they begin to understand that they're valuable -- they're worth something -- and mentors win by showing up," Sowers said.

Sowers says he wanted to give back after growing up with mentors of his own.

"I grew up, love my dad, but he wasn't around," Sowers said. "I had three big brother/big sister mentors and they really helped raise me along with my mom and my grandmother. My mom worked three jobs and my grandmother picked me up from school every day and taught me how to read and write."

Some organizations say they have more than 60 kids on waiting lists for mentors.

They can wait for more than a year to work with one.

Here's a list of some organizations that are looking for volunteers:

Amigo Centre - Sturgis, MI

Bashor Children's Home - Goshen, IN

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Elkhart County

Boys and Girls Club of Elkhart County

CAPS - Elkhart, IN

Crossing School of Business and Entrepreneurship

Elkhart County Jail Ministry

Fathers First, Inc. - South Bend, IN

Five Star Life - Elkhart, IN

Goodwill Industries of Michiana, Inc.

Heroes Camp, Inc. - Mishawaka, IN

Hope Ministries - South Bend, IN

Horizon Education Alliance - Goshen, IN

Lifeline - Elkhart, IN

National Youth Advocate Program

RETA - Elkhart, IN

The Post Youth Center - Goshen, IN

Transformation Ministries - South Bend, IN

True Purpose Ministries - Warsaw, IN

Village to Village Intl. - Elkhart, IN



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