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July 23, 2014, 12:17 pm

Salvation Army launches mentoring program

During the holidays, you see them everywhere, clanging bells with red fat-belly kettles for you to deposit money into. Ever faithful, they even brave frosty cold and snowy weather, to tug on our heartstring to donate money towards the support of the less fortunate citizens of our society. They are the friendly volunteers of the Salvation Army. The local Salvation Army is making a bold outreach of a different kind, soliciting volunteers and community partners to mentor at-risk inner city youth, males especially.

The Salvation Army is a Christian faith-based human services organization. Since 1886, the Salvation Army has faithfully provided social and spiritual services to millions of needy and disenfranchised individuals and families throughout the world.

The Rev. Jeremiah Huggins, 31, serves as a lieutenant with the local Salvation Army of Greater Philadelphia, located at 701 N. Broad St. Huggins is actively reaching out to community partners to help draw at-risk youth in for mentoring, sports, and spiritual regeneration. Huggins has a longstanding relationship with the Salvation Army, he took part in an after school program at age 16, and he’s been actively involved ever since.

On July 14, about 30 men trekked to the Salvation Army of Greater Philadelphia to hear Huggins and other leaders appeal for volunteers to serve, “We’re passionate about equipping men and empowering men to be very impactful in their communities and in their families. Especially our African-American [young men], they need to be mentored, and they need to be around people to learn how to act like a man.” Huggins reflected on the importance of his father’s presence in his life, Huggins felt that his dad made a positive difference in his overall success and development as a man.

Christopher A. Pender, Sr., 51, a well known activist and youth leader in the community, is the Director and Founder of Fam.Com/H.Y.P.E. (Families and Communities on the Move/Helping Youth Prepare Effectively).  Pender has teamed up with Huggins to make stronger inroad into the community to draw male volunteers to mentor at-risk African-American males.

“This [mentoring initiative] is important to me because I’m a North Philly kid,” said Pender. “I was blessed to have two parents, most of my friends didn’t, so I know the difference of having a positive male role model in your life.”

Pender believes that today’s “X-Box Youth Generation” are so impersonal and withdrawn, that they desperately need real-life positive male role models who will engage them personally.

“It’s time for African-American [men] to step up,” said Pender. Pender believes too many leaders and men in the community offer a lot of talk without initiating positive action. Fam.Com/H.Y.P.E has action goals that emphasizes social development, parental involvement, character development, leadership, and active learning as some of its educational philosophy to positively transform at-risk youth in the community.

Vaughn Tinsley, 27, a foreboding and very fit athlete, towers at 6-foot-7 and is the founder and executive director of the non-profit Founding Fatherz. Tinsley is another community leader that’s partnering with the Salvation Army of Greater Philadelphia to serve at-risk youth to make impact in the community. Tinsley is a single parent with full custody of his 6-year-old son.

“I have been able to start this [mentoring] tradition with my son, with this bond with my son, he and I have a genuine interaction,” he said. “If I can love my son on a daily basis, why not incorporate a lot of African-American males — who don’t have fathers involved in their life — and help [to serve] them? Then they can be sustained to refrain from making the wrong decisions.”

According to Tinsley, Founding Fatherz provides mentoring, life skills development, and academic support, via a culturally sensitive approach to connect young African-American males to positive adult role models in their community. Tinsley has taken his Founding Fatherz model and has successfully served at-risk youth in the School District of Philadelphia.

Christopher Pender shares his name with Pender Jr., a recent college grad who reflects his father’s energy, ambitions, and concern for at-risk youth in the community. Pender Jr., 24, is partnering with the Salvation Army of Greater Philadelphia to use basketball and other sports as a way to mentor youth in the community, “Kids need someone to look up to,” he said, “to show them what to do, don’t just tell the kids [what to do], they’re tired of hearing that, they hear it all the time. Kids need to see men come out and be [a positive] example.”

If you are a concerned adult male, and you’re interested in learning how to volunteer your time, and/or donate money or services towards the Salvation Army’s outreach efforts, contact Lieutenant Jeremiah Huggins at The Salvation Army of Greater Philadelphia, 701 N. Broad St. Or call: (215) 787-2800.