Just for the guys … men’s support group launches this summer

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May 8, 2024
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Just for the guys … men’s support group launches this summer

Jay Mills, a retired Episcopal priest with a passion for helping our neighbors, is the man behind our soon-to-be men’s support group for Getting Ahead graduates.

“I have a passion for helping people get out of poverty because it’s such a scourge on our community and it’s getting worse,” he said. “I’m fully bought into the Getting Ahead program and have seen how it’s changing lives right here in our community. It meets a real need and I’m hoping this support group will, too.”  

Jay has written about some of his life’s experiences around the following themes to spur discussion during the support group: decisions, keeping your values, when you fail, and dealing with addictive behavior. 

Among those stories are those of a recovering drug & alcohol addict – Jay has been clean & sober for 25 years. He said he was raised to be a “hard drinking, hard fighting womanizer” and was addicted to drugs by age 13 – just one year after being sexually assaulted. He went into a “downward spiral” from there getting into fights in college and was “totally lost and afraid.” 

It was during college in 1975 that he experienced a Christian conversion through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. 

“It was a complete and utter reversal in my life,” he writes in one of his short stories. “I was new, clean, and hopeful – and felt loved for the first time in a long, long time. Decisions always affect our lives. Bad ones can cast long shadows over our lives. I have a lot to share and a lot of varied experiences and things I’ve learned over the years, sometimes the hard way.” 

Men who attend the first three sessions will receive a $30 Wal-Mart gift card, generously provided by Jay. The support group will be open only to Getting Ahead graduates and will have a maximum of 8 men. 

“I’m really looking forward to getting to know the guys and hopefully my stories will help spark some discussions,” he said. “I want this to be a place of encouragement and I hope we can find community and deep bonds together.” 

Sandy Dyson-Reid, Empowerment Center Director, is hoping for the same thing. It can be challenging, she said, to encourage men to set pride aside and ask for the help Getting Ahead provides. Of the 130 people who have graduated from the Getting Ahead program since 2017, just 20 of those are men. So far, only five of those men have taken advantage of the free life coaching launched in 2022. 

“This support group is so needed because it perfectly compliments the Getting Ahead process,” she said. “We want to create a safe space for men to get with like-minded men as they grow and navigate life. We’re hopeful that this support group will help men build those strong bonds and social capital that will in return spur growth as bridging capital to help them get ahead and thrive.” 

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