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Fathers helping fathers build a stronger foundation for better families, even during coronavirus pandemic

The Fathers Support Center holds boot camps to make absentee dads more responsible, even during the pandemic

ST. LOUIS — Rebuilding often starts with a strong foundation.

"We opened up a new location at 1601 Olive. We renovated a building that had been sitting here," Halbert Sullivan said of the building that now houses his non-profit.

Sullivan has just opened a new headquarters for the non-profit Fathers and Families Support Center.

The center is designed to help children and families by helping men become responsible dads.

"At last count, we had about 17,500 men who had come through our system," said Sullivan, the president and CEO of the non-profit.

Sullivan helped start the Fathers Support Center back in 1997, at a time that his life was still under construction.

"I have a background that includes me being incarcerated on three different occasions and also includes me being a drug addict, went into recovery in 1993," he explained.

But Sullivan wanted to make amends. 

He got a master's degree in social work at Washington University and studied the negative effects of absentee fathers.

"Negatives, such as high school dropout, violence, gangs, drugs,  incarceration," Sullivan said.

When there's not a pandemic, men who come here must commit to attend classes and therapy sessions.

"There's the words "no excuses" written on the whiteboard in class and facilitators definitely stick with that," said client Demtrice Davis.

Davis came here because he was having issues with visitation and wanted to spend more time with his youngest daughter.

"One of the biggest things that I took from class is being patient and learning how to deal with the mother of my child at a level of where a man should be," he told us.

Because of COVID, classes take place remotely now but expectations are the same. And they're still helping their clients find jobs.

"Between March 23 when they shut us down to June 30 our employment staff has gotten 60 job placements," Sullivan said proudly.

Not all the men who sign up stick with the program but those who make it to the end might get a new beginning with their daughter.

"Absolutely," a smiling Davis said. "I spend a lot more time with her. She definitely appreciates it and it just changed my whole outlook on everything."

Thanks to nearly $5 million in donations, the Fathers and Families Support Center has a new building while still helping dads learn the blueprint for success.

"It's amazing when you see and hear how much their lives have changed and yes it does something to me," Sullivan said.

For more information about the Fathers and Families Support Center, visit their website.

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