Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club increases father’s involvement in schools
What began as Joseph Williams reading to his daughter’s class at her school, became a movement to get fathers involved in their children’s lives.
Williams started Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club in 2017. It was an outlet for him. He began helping out at the school doing lunchroom duty and hallway monitoring. He built a respect level with the children at the school. He wanted to tap into his children’s lives through volunteering.
“That’s why I always tell people, my kids saved my life. That’s why it’s so important for this work to happen because other fathers, they love their babies and they want to be in their kids lives, they just don’t know how sometimes,” Williams said.
Every week, Williams would read books to his daughter’s class. When fathers started to come to the school to pick up their children, they wanted to get involved with reading books to the students. Before he knew it, there were 150 fathers reading books to students and assisting with events at the school.
Williams wanted to turn that momentum into something and decided to start Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club as a nonprofit. He became more intentional with reading books that were focused on social emotional learning. He wanted to boost the confidence in the students he was reading to.
At the school, the faculty and staff saw a change in the students’ behavior. Williams started to bring in men from different backgrounds, doctors, lawyers and judges and have them read to the students. One of Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club frequent guest readers is Circuit Court of Cook County Judge David L. Kelly.
With Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club, the literacy component is for the students grades pre-k to third grade. From fourth grade to twelfth grade, students receive mentoring. The mentoring ranges from one-on-one mentoring to group support.
“The main thing I love doing with them is sending them out on trips. We’ll send the fathers with their kids skating, to the White Sox game, to the WNBA games, just sending them around so they can have those experiences,” Williams said.
Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club also send fathers to museums and the zoos with their children. Williams said that a lot of times, the fathers think they need money to spend time with their children. But, there are opportunities for them to spend time with their children with little to no cost to them. Williams also makes sure the fathers know about different resources that are available.
All of it feels good for Williams to do. Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club is currently in 11 schools. He wants to expand the program to all the schools on the South side first, then going to the West side. He also wants to be able to pay the fathers who volunteer to read to the students in the schools.
When Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club first started, Williams had to recruit fathers at the different schools. Principals have been reaching out to him and asking him to bring the program to their school. They also have the fathers who want to volunteer. The students also love Mr. Dad, the mascot of Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club that goes into the school.
Williams said doing this work is serious to him. Growing up, he wanted the guidance of a man. He decided he was going to be the kind of father that was in his children’s lives and in the lives of other children. He went through a lot to get the organization off the ground, and he is glad that it is growing and thriving.
“I ain’t perfect, but I work my hardest to do the best I can do for my community and for these babies and to walk a straight line,” he said.
Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club participates in about 10 events throughout the year.
For more information about Mr. Dad’s Father’s Club, visit www.mrdadsfathersclub.com.
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