Fatherhood program has family at its core

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From left; Transitional Jobs and Fatherhood Program Manager Erick Williams stands with Michael Jones, a graduate of the program. Jones said the program helped him start a productive life after being incarcerated.

Michael Jones, 49, the father of six and grandfather of three, is still willing to try new things. He graduated from Community Action’s Fatherhood Program in 2012, and is working at Birdseye Foods in Darien and striving to improve relationships with his wife and family.

Jones said he gained more in the Fatherhood Program than just learning to build a stronger family. After being incarcerated most recently for DUI related offenses, Jones said he used the program as a way to focus on being successful as a member of society. Since graduating the 90-day program in the spring of 2012, Jones was able to obtain his driver’s license and a vehicle and has become a productive member of society.

“I wanted to get in some kind of program to get me focused and not get me right back into the streets,” Jones said. “I wanted to be held accountable for my actions, wanted to give back to the community and be a role model for the younger kids.”

In 2013, the Fatherhood Initiative Program welcomed more than 40 participants. Of those, 33 had been incarcerated at one time prior to enrolling. Twenty-one of the program’s participants were able to secure a full-time job while in the program allowing them to support their families and be a productive member of society, according to Fatherhood Program Manager Erick Williams.

Jones said he had been incarcerated and struggled with substance abuse before the program. Jones, who lived on Park Avenue in South Beloit and later in the 1800 block of Wisconsin Avenue, explained how he grew up around drugs and alcohol, drinking for the first time in third or fourth grade.

As he got older in the 1970s and early 1980s he said it was just the thing to do.

“You had to run through the neighborhood and show your toughness, bully someone or be bullied,” he said.

Despite challenges Jones said he always kept a job, working at a variety of factories and in construction. Because some of his work was seasonal, he said there sometimes were idle times between jobs when drug and alcohol use would resurface.

When he was last incarcerated he said he really was motivated to get away from drugs and alcohol.

“It wasn’t my goal to get out of the penitentiary to see the same thing I left before I went into the penitentiary,” he said.

Jones said he would come to the Fatherhood Program early to clean up offices and stay motivated. Jones said he appreciated the guidance he received from the program as he said it can be difficult to rejoin society after incarceration. There are bills, household chores and a variety of other pressures.

“I needed some help and still a little more guidance to stay focused and positive,” he said.

Jones said the program also helped him learn to do to resumes and conduct himself in job interviews. He said he had the opportunity to speak with a variety of business people who came in to talk to him about his life story and his goals.

Since completing the program, Jones is not only working but said he is re-connecting with kids and grandchildren. He takes the little ones to the park or out to eat.

“It seems like they want to be around me more,” he said.

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