by Patrice Baltimore
At our community’s core is the family unit. With soaring divorce rates, out-of-wedlock births, and absent fathers, many families are in crisis.
First Things First of Greater Richmond (FTF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening families and relationships through education, research-based programs, and public awareness. It was established in 2004 as a community affiliate of the Tennessee-based organization which was founded in 1997.
Executive Director, Bob Ruthazer, Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE), is proud of the accomplishments made thus far by FTF. “We are impacting the community with few resources,” Bob says. “We helped over 1600 people last year directly with our website, public awareness, and brochures. The Website has 5000 hits per month, so we help thousands more.”
FTF offers an array of programs that are designed to impact relationships at various stages of relationships, such as dating, engagement, newlyweds, and even marriages in crisis. Singles, youth, couples, and fathers can greatly benefit from the many proven research-based programs offered by FTF.
Last week, FTF presented the workshop, “Successful Stepfamilies Conference and Training” with author and therapist, Ron Deal at St. Giles Presbyterian Church.
“Romance, Rice, and Reality” is designed for couples,” while “How to Avoid Marrying a Jerk or Jerkette” is intended to educate teens about relationships. New or expecting fathers can gain insight and encouragement at the “Boot Camp for New Dads” program. This program features veteran dads, who bring their babies to give tips, advice, and encouragement to rookie fathers.
LeMar Bowers, Fatherhood Coordinator, recalls his experience in the Boot Camp. He first participated when he was expecting his third child, and first daughter, and he served as a veteran dad.
“It was exciting to see men take advantage of workshop training, education, and support.” says Bowers. “We had 14-years-olds and 40-year-olds in the same workshops with the same questions, same fears, and same concerns. The most amazing thing was the common ground when it came to fatherhood and responsibility. No matter race, creed, or color, they had the same fears and concerns to be better men with our families, wives, and children.”
Board member and volunteer Jera Cunningham, Ph.D., a Licensed Professional Counselor, participated in the couples class with her husband, Carl, who now volunteers with FTF. “It’s a skills based class. It provides nice communication skills to practice.”
When speaking about how the class impacted her relationship, she adds, “We have been more intentional in our words that we use and how we talk to each other, particularly in a sensitive issue or one we don’t agree on. The classes are user-friendly and make sense.”
First Things First, 5200 Grove Ave, 288-3431 www.firstthingsrichmond.org