Each of us celebrates Father’s Day in our own unique way, including United Way employee, Lonnie Williamson, who serves as a volunteer for Fathers’ Support Center, a United Way-supported agency. Founded in 1997, Father’s Support Center works to increase the involvement of father’s in the lives of their children.
As we approach Father’s Day, Lonnie shared his thoughts on the holiday and the importance of helping people in our community.
What does Father’s Day mean to you?
For me, Father’s Day is a day of remembrance. Both my father and mother are deceased, but I often think of them, especially on Father’s and Mother’s Day. My dad was a mechanic; he owned his own janitorial business, co-owned a club and was a barber. I learned how to cut hair just by watching him, and now every time I cut my own hair I think of him.
How long have you been involved with Fathers’ Support Center of St. Louis and what is your role within the organization?
In 2009, I asked a United Way colleague if she had any advice on where I could do my internship for my master’s degree in counseling. She directed me to Fathers’ Support Center, the organization accepted me and I finished my internship and received my degree. During my internship, I saw firsthand what a positive affect the program had on the men’s lives so I asked if I could volunteer my personal time with the organization. I was asked to serve as a counselor for the Father’s Rap program, which meets twice a week. In our sessions a number of men come together and discuss issues like responsible fatherhood, positive communication, relationship building, child support issues, visitation and employment.
How has being involved with the Fathers’ Support Center impacted your life?
My involvement with Fathers’ Support Center of St. Louis has reaffirmed my knowledge that a need exists to help fathers become a positive part of their children’s lives. I’ve found that one out of every three children in America is living in a home without his or her natural father. Working with Fathers’ Support Center, it’s clear to me that children growing up without their father in the home face an increased risk of developing major problems including emotional problems, behavioral problems, and are more likely to commit crimes, receive poor grades in school and are at a higher risk for suicide. My hope is that I can be a positive influence on fathers and encourage them to put their child first. Even if the father is not in the home, I want them to understand and see the need for both parents to get along for the well being of the child, and not involve the child in adult issues.
Why do you think it’s important for people to celebrate Father’s Day?
To me, Father’s Day can be used to reconnect with your father or a father to reconnect with his children. It doesn’t have to be about gifts, just some quality time together.