By Reggie Boyer, Impact Coach
Sometimes, you just need to get away from it all, decompress, and share your thoughts in a safe place.
This simple fact of life inspired me to work with my participants at Rubicon Programs to create our first Men’s Support Group.
Men at Rubicon have gone through—and are still going through—a lot, whether that means dealing with personal challenges, launching a career or simply raising a family.
It’s tough to get through all of that without a support system to keep your spirits up. That’s why our participants have been so interested in what this group has to offer.
"I joined the Men’s Group to get support from, and communicate with, men who are on my level,” says Theodore, a Group participant. “Since the first day, these men have helped me restore my self-confidence, as well as regain trust in my fellow man.”
Our Men’s Group provides that crucial social support, as well as a whole host of other opportunities for growth. Each Monday evening, nearly two dozen men convene at our Richmond Headquarters to enjoy a meal, talk about their problems and plan community service projects intended to give back.
“It’s a chance to let loose away from work, family, and our day-to-day responsibilities, and share your thoughts and feelings without being judged,” says Michael, another regular participant in the Group. “And it works. As a result, our group has grown even bigger than we ever expected.”
The weekly program has provided a shift in mindset for all of these men. They’re focused on growth and moving towards change, ready to take action to make the community a better place.
Over the holiday season, the men raised money and bought supplies to help the homeless. They gathered hundreds of articles of clothing, dozens of blankets and tons of food. Then they walked the streets of Richmond handing out care packages, as well as information on how to access services like Rubicon.
That experience was life-changing for them. It brought a great deal of satisfaction and they wanted to continue to pay it forward.
In honor of Mother’s Day, they decided to do something special for the moms of the community who aren’t always provided the opportunity to have a day just for themselves.
The Men’s Group settled on a Mother’s Day Brunch to express gratitude to the women who not only raised their own children, but also helped nurture many others’ children.
“What’s better than to support our women and give them a good time, with great food and great service,” Theodore says.
First, we organized a raffle, raising hundreds of dollars to support the event. Then, we reached out to the amazing Menbere Aklilu, owner of Salute e Vita Ristorante. She generously offered to support the project by providing us with first-class meals on the restaurant's beautiful waterfront veranda.
The men then bought fresh cut flowers for each of the mothers, dressed up in their fanciest outfits, and donned Men’s Group-branded aprons to provide each of the thirty deserving mothers with impeccable service and a delicious meal of fresh salad, Chicken Marsala, roasted vegetables and a decadent dessert.
“The food was delicious,” says Yolanda, one of the lucky moms. “Each of the men were so sweet, serving us with a smile. I am so proud of them for organizing such a beautiful event, and for providing all of us with food we may never had a chance to taste!”
Bringing Love into Our Community
At the end of the meal, Menbere shared her amazing story with all the mothers, and the men by their side.
“I’m one of you. I know how it feels to be lonely, or homeless, or a single mother,” she said. “I, once a little girl from Ethiopia, where I walked barefoot and played only with the dirt and the dust, who then came to America, lived on welfare, and gradually rose up, was able to earn my American Dream.”
She continued to speak, nearly bringing each of the moms—and men—to tears.
“Now, even though many people said I couldn’t do it, I own this restaurant. And I get to give back to my community. And gather with my community. And walk side-by-side with my community.”
“Never forget that you’re worthy. Never forget that you are loved.”
And, that message, at its core, is the message of the Men’s group: love. It’s a space that allows men to love themselves, appreciate each other and grow together. It provides an essential service that’s hard for them to find anywhere else.
Together, we have formed a brotherhood. We’ve become family. And we welcome newcomers with open arms.
Reggie Boyer is an Impact Coach at Rubicon Programs, and the founding organizer of the Rubicon Men’s Support Group.