by Cesca Janece Waterfield
Bob Ruthazer is Executive Director of First Things First, a non-profit organization that offers relationship skills training for singles, couples, and new parents. They aim to reduce the trend toward destructive relationships and strengthen community by offering education and mobilization.
Bob is convinced of the program’s value, having seen verifiable proof via social science research – and at home. “We’ve been married 32 years and we jokingly say we’ve had 30 years of great marriage,” Bob says. “Like everybody else, there have been challenges in our marriage, but we found skills to have a better marriage and those have helped us.”
A conversation with Bob is likely to convince anyone of the quality of life that skills like those taught by First Things First will bring. But so will a glimpse at generations of research.
A Few Facts:
· Live longer and healthier lives
· Have less stress and depression
· Make more money
· Enjoy better sex
· Their Children do better in school,
work and in life
First Things First offers healthy relationship skills training and pre-marriage education including workshops “It Takes Two; Keys to a Rewarding Relationship” and “10 Great Dates Within My Reach.” While First Things First is a vital asset to a family, it is also crucial to the city at large. Bob says, “Conservatively, about one third of all the services that are provided to people – cash assistance, Medicaid, child welfare, Head Start, even what we spend on the justice system – it’s estimated by researchers that one third of that is caused by family fragmentation – divorce and non-marital child bearing. The report is being released next week estimating that the cost is over 205 million dollars and that’s just [the cost associated with] the family fragmentation.”
Quality of life could be described as a set of skills – and they can be learned. “My personal life is one of the reasons why I have a high value on families,” Bob says. “My growing up was probably something people would describe as somewhat dysfunctional. My father wasn’t really involved. It sort of leaves a hole in your heart. You want to please your father, you want to have a relationship. So I wanted to make sure that I had a closer family.”
Tale of Two Cities:
First Things First was founded in 1997 in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Since then, the area has seen a 29 percent drop in divorce filings and 29 percent decrease in teen out-of-wedlock pregnancies. Noting Richmond’s similar population and social demographics, a diverse group of religious leaders began a local coalition in 1998 to promote effective marriage preparation and enrichment through education and marriage mentoring. In 2004, they voted to create a Richmond affiliate of the Tennessee group, First Things First of Greater Richmond, who reaches out to a wide network of concerned people from government, business and education, and across racial, ethnic, and religious lines.
Good Fathers are Everyday Heroes:
Join First Things First on June 19 at Henrico Doctors’ Hospital, 11am-12:30 pm and 2-2:30 pm at Macy’s Regency Square. WRVA’s Jimmy Barrett will be emcee and Governor Bob McDonnell will issue a proclamation as First Things First salutes new dads in Richmond. As special guest is Virginia Delegate Bill Janis: “Success Has a Thousand Fathers, I Have at least Three.” More than 700 invitations will be issued to families in Metro Richmond. Your tax deductible contribution will be recognized on electronic invitations, on our web site and at the event where dads will share their stories of new parenthood.
Everyone Can Win:
Door and Raffle prizes include a Lifetime Crib from USA Baby, an overnight stay at the Westin Hotel, gift cards from Cafe Catura, Brio, Patina Grill, Bow Tie Cinemas, and more. Media Partners include Richmond Times Dispatch, Virginia This Morning, WRVA’s morning show, and Urban Views Weekly.
First Things First, 5200 Grove Ave. Phone 288-3431 (ext 11) www.firstthingsrichmond.org