How One Small Town in Alaska is Helping Hundreds of Men Become Better Fathers
By Natasha Smith
“Any strength that I possess, I can trace back to my dad.”
I said this in a conversation a few months ago and I keep reflecting on its reality. I am blessed to have an incredible, godly, hardworking, honest, kind, patient and present dad. The more life I live, the more I recognize how rare it is to have such a father.
In fact, the National Fatherhood Initiative states that 1 in 4 children do not have a father in their home. And the lack of a present dad has profound ramifications for our society.
In the pro-life sphere, we often focus on moms and unborn babies and forget the dads who are no less a part of the story. Doug Prins, the Fatherhood Program Manager at HeartReach Center, defines them as the “lost and forgotten.”
I met Prins in 2020 when I visited the HeartReach Center in Wasilla, Alaska. HeartReach is partnering with Save the Storks to launch a mobile ministry to reach rural Alaskans with the power of ultrasound. During my tour of their incredible new clinic, I heard about their extensive Fatherhood Ministry – one that was more holistic and comprehensive than I’d ever seen before.
Focusing on Fathers
“Adding the fatherhood program has made a huge difference,” said Joyce Moropoulos, Executive Director of HeartReach Center. “We work with state agencies, like the Office of Children Services. We work with court-appointed parents who have lost custody of their children. To gain that custody back and the right to parent their children, they have to take family classes [and] parenting classes. We just so happen to be the agency in the valley that has over 600 parenting classes.”
“HeartReach center is working toward focusing on the guys who come and helping the guys to be better men, better dads, better fathers, better husbands,” Prins said.
The men who come to their center for the Fatherhood Program are connected with mentors who walk alongside them for as long as they need. Prins told me that he’s been meeting with some men for five years. Currently, there are about 100 men in their program.
I met a few of their clients who each stated how helpful HeartReach is by giving them tools to be better dads. One such client was Niel.
Niel’s Story: Finding Support from the Fatherhood Program
Niel found himself in an abusive marriage. He told me how valuable it was to have someone like Prins to talk to.
“It’s just so nice to be heard,” he said. “I’m able to learn something every time. Even though it’s a pregnancy center, it’s there for men as well.”
The classes are helping Neil figure out how to be as present as possible in the lives of his sons and find ways to co-parent despite the marital stress he finds himself in.
“I think HeartReach exists to help people like me,” Niel continued “If you can better a man’s life, you’re bettering the next generation. You’re helping every child; you’re helping everyone that man can influence. I have nieces and nephews, eventually, hopefully, I’ll have grandkids… you’re influencing hundreds of people when you’re teaching one man how to do things better.”
HeartReach is just one of many pregnancy centers that offer fatherhood programs. You can learn more about the importance of dads at the National Fatherhood Initiative.
Care Net, a national pro-life pregnancy center network, also has a wealth of resources for starting and engaging in men’s ministry at your church or how to partner with your local pregnancy center to serve the fathers in your community.
It was an honor to meet the men at HeartReach Center who help dads do the hard work of being present in the lives of his children. Thank you, dads, for helping create strong individuals in your homes and helping build a stronger society as a result.
“A good father is one of the most unsung, unpraised, unnoticed, and yet one of the most valuable assets in our society.” — Billy Graham
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