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According to the U.S. Census Bureau, about 24 million children in America live without their biological father, and reports show that children without fathers in the home have a greater risk of poverty, are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, are more likely to drop out of high school, and to go to prison.
It represents a cycle that Ernest Woodson and his nonprofit Fathers Incorporated want to stop. So, he has begun that mission in Baltimore, where each year the organization selects and recognizes outstanding fathers in urban communities that also include places like New York, Philadelphia, and Detroit.
“The focus is the heartbeat of the Black community,” Woodson said. “We will recognize a father who changed the lives of his family and community for the better. We will recognize a father whose challenges and triumphs are manifested in his life experience and personal journey, beyond his profession and career achievements.
“Ideally, the recipient of the award will be a father whose actions and achievements reflect unifying values and founding principles of fathers, brotherhood, manhood, fatherhood, and gentleman-ship.” For consideration as Baltimore’s Father of the Year, a recipient must be a U.S. citizen residing in Charm City. Family and community members can nominate a father, but a potential awardee may not nominate himself. Those holding political appointments and individuals associated with Fathers Incorporated also are ineligible for consideration.
The Father of the Year winner will be determined by a careful evaluation of each applicant, who judges will score in several categories, including brotherhood, fatherhood, and their reputation as a gentleman.
“Right now, our kickoff for this year began on Jan. 1, and the campaign runs through Mar. 31,” Woodson noted. “We want to get the word out about the Father of the Year Award and really find those fathers who are committed tobeing a role model.”
The selection criteria include individuals who promote what Woodson called traditional values of brotherhood, manhood, fatherhood, and gentlemenship. Among the organization’s definitions of the criteria are those who believe in practicing characteristics that demonstrate all people should act with warmth and equality toward one another regardless of race, sex, faith, or nationality.
Woodson said the individual selected should have a “state of maturity that allows a male child to become an adult male with all the composite characteristics of courage, steadfastness, virility, intelligence, and vigor required to be an upright responsible man.”
They should also have the quality of exercising paternal care over persons or promoting the development in others the proper capabilities of honor, respect, value, and the confidence needed to ensure their ability to function within their family, community, and the larger society, Woodson stated. He defines gentleman-ship as art that “embraces the quality of being a well-informed man of benevolence, civility, character, sensitivity, and manners, with self-sespect and respect for others.”
“The nominee receiving the highest rated score receives the award and a $2,000 cash prize,” Woodson said. For official rules and more information, visit www.https://fathersincorporated.net/.
Last year’s winner beat out men that included nominees who held Ph.D.’s, entrepreneurs, and other highly-regarded candidates, Woodson said. “The aim is to find a compassionate, loving father who is doing what is good, and we want to hold him up as a role model,” Woodson added.
“We want to encourage men to be benevolent, to take care of children, and be a father to everybody in the community even if they don’t have any children themselves.”