Men interested in participating in the mentoring initiative called The World Needs a Father should call Front Porch Alliance at 423-756-8545.
Scott Soltau and Bowling started LAUNCH to help people who want an opportunity, but have to overcome obstacles, such as a prison record or a lack of resources, to work. LAUNCH is accepting applications until Sept. 4 or until the entrepreneurship class fills for a Sept. 9 start. For an application or information, please call 423-523-9307.
Less than a year after finishing a 15-year prison sentence for robbery, 35-year-old Charmane Goins got married, had a baby and landed a job as owner and operator of the Bethlehem Bistro. The restaurant was ranked fifth among more than 500 restaurants on tripadvisor.com.
The Bistro became the eatery of choice for several area ministers, but the job kept him working up to 14 hours a day, with little time to spend with his family.
After a year, with no other job in sight, Goins quit.
"After being gone for so long and then to not be in my family's life and be effective, I just couldn't sacrifice that," he said.
Goins is husband to Alfreda and father to 15-month old Makaria and 17-year-old Demetrius.
In the midst of countless statistics about fathers being absent from their children's homes, Goins is one of hundreds of local dads taking active steps to reconnect with his family after incarceration or divorce.
Dr. Rosario Slack, head of The World Needs a Father, a citywide fatherhood mentoring initiative, has trained 18 other men in Chattanooga to be male mentors. Within the next three years each of those 18 men will seek to mentor 10 other men to influence a total of 1,800 men in the Chattanooga area.
"We're trying to reconnect fathers to the mission of us being present and raising our children," said Slack, father of three.
About 13.5 percent of households in Hamilton County, or 16,780 homes, include children living without their dads, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
About 37 percent of children in the Tennessee, or 516,000, live in single-parent homes. That's an increase from 35 percent of children in 2005, according to the 2013 Kids Count Profile.
Slack said the vast majority of social ills -- from poverty to behavioral problems, gang membership and crime -- are caused by fathers being absent from home.
"Children start acting outside of their identity when fathers aren't present because fathers create barriers or boundaries that mothers do not naturally create," said Slack.
Goins grew up in Emma Wheeler and McCallie homes, among the city's largest public housing sites. His biological father didn't live with the family.
In prison, he commanded hundreds of people as a leader in the Gangster Disciples. But he became a Christian near the end of his term. He changed his focus to pleasing God and seeing his family.
"God promised while I was in prison that he would redeem the time with my son," he said.
Well-known Chattanooga educator Lurone "Coach" Jennings visited him while he was in prison and told him about the LAUNCH program, a 10-week business planning course that helped him prepare to operate the Bistro. Jennings since has been named administrator of the Youth and Family Development department in Mayor Andy Berke's administration.
Goins quit the Bistro not knowing what would happen next. But a month later, Hal Bowling, co-founder of LAUNCH, hired him as LAUNCH's director of business support services. Goins is also the Northwest Georgia area director of BASIC [Believing in Athletes, Students and Introducing Christ].
Both jobs enable him to earn a living and spend more time with his family, he said.
The Beth will consider another entrepreneur interested in operating a restaurant at the center, Goins said.
Contact staff writer at Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6431.