Willie Sheppard first came to Upstate Fatherhood Coalition feeling helpless and lost. Under-employed, falling behind on child support payments and working through a strained relationship with the mother of his children, Sheppard felt he could not be the father his kids deserved.
For a long time, the mother of Sheppard’s children did not want him involved in their lives. But as he worked his way through Upstate Fatherhood Coalition’s courses on financial stability, parenting and healthy relationships, she began to see him in a different light.
“Now, I get my kids every weekend and I talk to them every day,” Sheppard said.
Sheppard’s grim outlook on life changed as he focused on employment and developed his one man plan alongside intervention specialists.
He had been struggling with self-esteem, believing he was unemployable due to a criminal background. But after he successfully completed the Employability Boot Camp, he secured a job working with chemicals at Siroflex, Inc.
But more important than his job is his growing relationship with his children. He feels a tremendous responsibility to spend quality time with them as often as he can.
“They didn’t ask to be here,” he said of his children. “It’s a good thing, being around your kids. I’ve got a lot of friends, they spend money on their kids and think that’s the way to do it. No, you’ve got to spend time with them.”
And because of Upstate Fatherhood Coalition, he can.
“I’ve been trying to encourage men to go,” Sheppard said. “If you start going on your own, or if you get locked up, they’re going to be there for you.”