Canton leg Men’s Challenge going strong
Founded in Alliance in 2012, the Canton outreach of Men’s Challenge has operated out of the LoveCanton church at 701 Walnut Ave. NE since 2015.
Men’s Challenge uses a three-pillared approach, Morey said, that includes job skills and readiness training, coaching and mentoring, and four-week workshops in forklift operation, which can include a stipend.
What makes Men’s Challenge different is its emphasis on building relationships, Morey said.
“It’s the relational aspect, no doubt,” he said. “Some guys come and are skeptical. They’re thinking it’s another hoop to jump through, until they get to know us. Men’s Challenge is an organization that cares about them and their families.”
Participants come through word-of-mouth, CommQuest, Refuge of Hope, CTCC and court referrals. All applicants undergo intake assessments.
“We aren’t trying to be nosy; we need to know what’s working in your life,” he explained.
Morey said the definition of success has changed as the number of participants has grown.
“In the beginning, we measured success by guys getting jobs,” he said. But we learned that success for some is not getting employed, but getting sober or maintaining their mental health, or finding wraparound services, or clothing.”
Gil Goodwin, co-founder and program chaplain, makes regular visits to the Stark County Jail to inform inmates about the program.
Goodwin agrees with Morey that relationship-building make the difference.
“I think it makes a huge difference,” he said. “We don’t want to just give you information. We want to know you.”
Morey said one of the key successes of Men’s Challenge is motivating people to take job-seeking seriously.
“If you’re not working, it is your full-time job,” he said. “You need to be prepared at any moment. A good effort increases your chances of employment ... We’ve come to realize that encouragement can lift them up.”
Morey said that as the economy improves, employment becomes an employees’ market. But that, too, can present some challenges, he said, when people who are used to making a certain wage express are reluctant to work for less money.
“For some guys, it’s a pride thing,” Morey said. “We let them know, look, you may have to start out making much less, but you won’t stay there. It’s an educational thing more than anything else.”
Men’s Challenge meets for two hours per week.
“For some guys, these two hours are the only peace they get in the day,” Morey said.
On this day, the Rev. Demetri Mittas of Faith Family Church urged the men to remain committed to the program.
“You may be in a bad place, a dark place, but I’ve got news for you: Seasons change,” Mittas said. “It’s gonna get better. Don’t give up on what God has for you.”
Mittas told the group that seeking a new mindset is important.
“Some people come out of prison, and they still walk around with their ‘oranges’ (jumpsuits) on, mentally,” he said.
He also urged them to read their Bibles and attend a church as much as they can.
Goodwin said though Men’s Challenge is faith-based, it serves all men, regardless of their beliefs.
The Rev. Toni Pugh, who serves on the Men’s Challenge Board, said the program is needed.
“This thing takes you through life,” he said. “It’s an excellent program.”
The Rev. Kevin Andrews, a volunteer and pastor at Breath of Tabernacle in Massillon, said he wants Men’s Challenge in his community.
“I believe it is the best-kept secret in Stark County; I believe men need this everywhere,” he said. “We definitely need it in Massillon. Everyone should want men to be productive in society. It’s what society needs, for men to take their place.”
Stolte, who also completed his certification in forklift operation, is partially disabled, but said he’s hoping to secure part-time employment.
“I know I’ve made mistakes,” he said. “But I’ve grown from them. That’s what this program has helped me to do. It’s helped me to change.”
To learn more, call 330-754-6203, or 330-821-6367, or visit www.menschallenge.org.
Original article found here.