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Searching for heroes: Evangelist embarks on fatherhood mission

Evangelist Phil Larson's Community Transformation Initiative is helping address issues faced by children in fatherless homes and the fathers who left them. Larson has teamed with Northwest Oklahoma City to help provide men for a fathers' group at a local school.
by Carla Hinton Published: September 11, 2013

Aid from local churches

Larson said statistics show that children living in homes without fathers are more likely to become teenage parents, abuse drugs, drop out of high school and become perpetrators or victims of domestic violence.

He is partnering with Northwest Oklahoma City to provide men for a fathers group at Tulakes Elementary School, 6600 Galaxie Drive. On a recent Saturday, Larson and several men from the church at 5821 Northwest Expressway recruited fathers who attended the school's information day.

Larson said his hope is to have the WatchDOGS group made up of Tulakes students' fathers and men from church who are willing to mentor.

He said he would like the men whose children attend the school to make up at least half the membership.

Tulakes Principal Lee Roland said the WatchDOGS group should help combat the negative images of men “beating, shouting and cursing” the students often see on TV.

“I'm hoping to see more positive males that our children can identify with — additional male role models that care,” Roland said. “They will see that these men want to help them make good decisions.”

Jared Weston, 33, one of the men from who joined the Watchdog group, said one of his friends is a teacher at the school.

“I'm just trying to make an impact in the community and make a difference in the future of these young kids,” he said.

Jerry Kramer, 63, another member, said he lives in the neighborhood surrounding Tulakes and feels that as a grandfather who has raised children he can help mentor younger fathers. He said he and his wife were houseparents at a children's home for 20 years.

“The heart that I have for kids never really went away,” he said.

Don't call them ‘deadbeat'

Larson says he refuses to give up on fathers. He does not like the term “deadbeat dad.” He said he calls them “floating fathers” because many drift in and out of their children's lives.

Larson said these fathers provide no stability for their families, but often don't know the importance of being a good father because their own fathers were never around. He said many are hungry for education about a healthy father-child relationship.

Larson said he has met dozens of men who want to reach out to their children. After they attend his conferences and Dad University sessions, they call to tell him about the success or challenges they met in their efforts to reconnect with their children.

The Rev. Jeff Mitchell, senior pastor of Tabitha Baptist, said his church saw positive results from Larson's “Fearless Fathers” conference.

“We wanted to have it at our church because we knew the potential impact that it would have on our church, but not just our church, but the community,” Mitchell said.

by Carla Hinton
Religion Editor
Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide...
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I'm hoping to see more positive males that our children can identify with — additional male role models that care. They will see that these men want to help them make good decisions.”

Tulakes Principal Lee Roland,

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