Here are personal accounts from some of our participants. We have not included their names to protect their identities and respect their privacy.
A New Leap Into Life
“When I first joined, I wasn’t anything but a young boy trying to make a difference. As young, as I was it wasn’t possible. I was too young, immature, unfocused, and very single-minded. But years past and I’ve matured went through experiences did things that I wouldn’t have ever done before if it was for youth for hope and all its other ministries. I’m kind of bad at expressing how I feel about you guys. Some of my words can get lost in the hope you guys gave me. I’ve been with guys for over 6-7 years. I mean I practically grew up with you guys. I started youth for hope on a Friday I remember because I was picked up in a red minivan that said “men for hope” and you guys took me along with my brother to intervention at the prospect village community center and that’s where the development of my life and future started to transform. You guys took me on trips. I even started to open up more.
I used to sit up in my room and never come out. I didn’t have any friends. I didn’t have any father figures. I didn’t have any positive role models. When you guys met me I had just come out of a home invasion where my family was held at gunpoint. A 10-year-old kid with a gun pointing at him and his mothers head. Could you imagine the dream I had? The fear I had when I walked down the streets at night. For a while, I started to lose hope in religion. I started doing bad things. Getting suspended in school, roaming the streets leaving my mom worried.
My uncle told me about a program called Men for Hope. And I thought to myself whats that. I’m only 10 about to turn 11? So I tried it and you guys turned my life around. A year or so in I was going back to church even got baptized. I met a new family. And a lot of father-like role models. I had millions of friends. But there were three main people that I looked up to Mr. Baldwin, Uncle Damon, and Minister Britton You three guys all had at least one characteristic that inspired my life and the creations of my future present and going forward. The way you guys work together you looked like brothers if you hadn’t told me you weren’t related I wouldn’t have noticed.
This program introduced me to a lot of new things. Because you opened me up and transformed me to a young man I managed to bump into a guy named Von T. Oshen which happens to be the director of Trenton Circus Squad. Speaking present wise and looking back. Whoa!! I’ve come along way. You guys showed me a new path that I can take. One that doesn’t involve Gangs, drugs, guns, and jail. And I’m truly blessed. I want to talk to you guys about being a mentor and passing on that experience to other young women and men children in Trenton and surrounding communities.”
Resources and Opportunity
“When I was 15, my family was homeless. We were staying with a friend of my mother. It wasn’t the best situation, but we had each other. One night, my mother’s friend invited me to a youth event. She said they were giving out free food. I was young, uninterested and frankly very tired. I just wanted to stay home and watch TV, but I thought “its free food, why not?”. So, I went and I was greeted by two large men, who were kind and inviting and they made me feel safe. Soon, these two men would become very important in my upbringing. Then I met three women, and then two more men. With every person I met I was greeted with a smile and warm hug.
That night I was fed a hot home cooked meal and led to a basement where I could pick from a plethora of clothes—anything I wanted they allowed me to take. This was the first time I had ever met these people, and they were so kind to me, so open. I felt truly blessed. Over the course of one year I had grown with these ministers as they saw the potential in me and propelled me to do better. They helped my family with bills, donated foods from the food pantry to us, and took us on trips that we would have never had the chance to go on had it not been for their dedication. I looked forward to program every week because it was a way for us to eat and enjoy one another. We learned important lessons that stick with me today and helped keep my brothers and cousins out of the dangerous streets of Trenton, NJ. I was soon put into small positions of leadership then gradually I became more and more of an essential part of everyday operations.
In 2017, I was looking for a job to no avail; I found nothing, for months. Men for Hope asked me to take on the role of Administrative Assistant. I worked in the office with them, keeping files in order, and working with them to get more funding for the programs that I grew to love so much. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to grow into my leadership and take on responsibility. I was glad to help children and the community the same way I had been helped by this organization. Two years later, Mr. Baldwin and the ministers arranged a way for me to get transport back to college when I had no idea of how I would get there. I have only been with Men for Hope for 4 years but this is how its always been. When anyone, anywhere is in need the administrators of this organization wholeheartedly sticks out a hand to help them.”