Men take challenge to overcome problems, step up

“There was a drug raid in Alliance, and they (suspects) went back to where they came from,” said Gray, who is leading the Men’s Challenge’s expansion into Canton. “That hurts. I don’t want that to happen to you.”

Men’s Challenge is a faith-based program aimed at providing direction to primarily unemployed men to help them improve their lives and, hopefully, land jobs.

After starting about two years ago in Alliance, Men’s Challenge recently expanded to Canton, and Gray is leading the project here. Meeting in a downtown office building at 600 Market Ave. N, Men’s Challenge shares some finer points of job searching, such as how to complete an application or résumé.

During a recent class session, the men appeared to range in age from their 20s to middle age. Some are undergoing substance-abuse treatment under Quest Recovery and Prevention Services.

And others are clients of Refuge of Hope, also a faith-based program providing emergency and transitional housing for men. “About 28 percent of the guys we had coming to Alliance were from Canton,” said Paul Dykshoorn, who leads the project in Alliance. “For the most part, they are men who are unemployed who are having trouble finding employment. As other communities invite us, we will go to other communities.”

Men’s Challenge officials describe some of the enrollees as men coping with myriad issues, such as criminal records, substance abuse, child-support payment delinquency and homelessness. Some simply have a difficult time with the job search process.

“They are struggling, they are having a tough time,” Gray said.

Gray, who is affiliated with Marlboro Christian Church, is an Alliance resident who became involved with Men’s Challenge in that city. “For me, it has been life experience,” Gray said. “I have experienced what some of these men are going through. I was addicted to drugs. I was addicted to alcohol. I was homeless.”


Along with the classes, Men’s Challenge also engages some participants in work experience at a Marlboro Township warehouse-type facility called Men’s Challenge Workshop.

There is a residence next door where some participants live while they perform tasks during the day.

“What we are doing is different,” said Rich Hall, director of the workshop. “No one else is doing this. We have kind of a three-tiered approach. We take a guy off the street and make them job-ready.”

The second phase links participants with mentors, whom Hall described as “Christian businessmen.”

And the third tier is the hands-on work experience at the workshop. Participants learn industrial skills such as operating a truck lift and chain saw.

The workshop in the 7200 block of Swamp Street NE is owned by Hall’s brother, Ray Hall.

One participant is James Wyle, 40, who recently was discharged from a residential substance-abuse treatment program.

“I am learning different job skills, getting job training, learning (biblical) Scripture,” Wyle said during a work break. Wyle, who served two state prison terms, said he has hopes Men’s Challenge will put him on the path to a more productive life.

“My whole life I lived on the streets,” said Wyle, who grew up in Kent. “I sold drugs and stuff. I really want to change my life. I don’t want to go back to the lifestyle of what I was doing.”


While establishing a presence in Canton, Men’s Challenge developed partnerships with Refuge of Hope and Quest Recovery and Prevention Services.

“I think that Men’s Challenge works with a population that is similar to ours; those people that have substance abuse issues and may have criminal activity in their past that may hinder them from getting jobs,” said Keith Hochadel, Quest’s chief operating officer. “One of the things that frustrates our drug and alcohol clients is their inability to get jobs.”

Some of the participants are temporarily living at one of Quest’s residential treatment facilities.

“While they are in recovery, the goal is they will have some job skills so they will be employable and employed,” Gray said. “We found that in recovery, they do a good job. They go back home to that same environment. We are helping with the vocation and soft-skill training.”

Men’s Challenge operates under a board of directors, which includes Gil Goodwin, who is affiliated with First Friends Church in Alliance.

“We want to really minister to the guys to realize their God-given role to be the provider and protector of their families,” Goodwin said. “Our theme is to get yourself up, dust yourself off and get back into the game.”

Original article found here.