BROOKSVILLE — At a time of year when songs promote goodwill toward men, the Rev. Clarence D. Clark Sr. is hoping some will be extended toward area youth by people who will support a new ministry begun by him and his church's youth pastor, William Robinson.
Shiloh Problem Solvers, a program designed to keep young men on the right path, will have its grand opening Monday at the organization's facility at Kennedy Park.
"What we're going to do is establish a relationship with young men, show them that we are a caring and a trustworthy group of men, get them to buy into education and get them to buy into doing the right things." Clark said. "Our ultimate goal is to keep good kids good and capture the ones that are on the borderline of going the wrong way."
The Monday event will give people an opportunity to learn about the outreach ministry and find out how they can help — specifically by making cash donations or volunteering their time. It will also provide information to parents who might want their sons to participate in the program.
"We're not federally or state funded, so we have partnered with other youth and family services providers," Clark said. "They are going to come out and bring their information. Then we're going to have all the parents and children come out from our community to see the valuable partnerships that we have, to let them know that there are people here that care for them and have valuable resources for them."
Organizations that have partnered with Clark's ministry include Parrott Middle School, the Harbor, the Dawn Center and the Wal-Mart Distribution Center. The ministry also works closely with Teen Court, the state Department of Juvenile Justice, the Anti-Drug Coalition of Hernando County and the Hernando County Parks and Recreation Department.
In addition, Clark wants people to get reacquainted with the park itself.
"We want to give them the understanding that this park is here for them to utilize. We want the organizations and businesses in Brooksville to realize that there are people here that really care about our county and our city."
There will be free food at the event, and entertainment will be provided by Strength of the Young, an acoustic percussion team.
The program, which began this fall, currently has 20 young men, with 15 more on a waiting list. To accommodate all of the needs, the organization needs more space — and more money.
"Everything we do now is funded out of Pastor Robinson's and my pocket," Clark said.
There are several slogans on Shiloh Problem Solvers' literature that succinctly explain the ministry's purpose:
"Family + Community + Faith = Successful Child in Our Community," says one. "Raising children, developing sons, and deploying fathers," says another.
"The problem we have in our society, especially in our community, is that first, we have young men having children and they're not staying there, assuming their responsibility to be that covering for their child. God has called believing men to be spiritual coverings," Clark said.
The nonprofit program provides youths with prevention, intervention and diversion services, along with educational services — all provided free to the youths and their families.
"The young men do their homework and make-up work, and they are tutored by volunteers from the Black Educators Caucus," Clark explained. "They are provided with a sandwich, snack and drink. Then a sponsor provides a 45-minute lesson on subjects like drug prevention and violence prevention. They then go in the park for sports and some type of group activity. On Friday, we do a dinner and movie after they complete their homework."
Clark described the young men who should apply to the program:
"Young men who have too much time, don't participate in any extracurricular activity (at school), need to apply. You know, idle time is the devil's workshop, so we want the children that have that idle time, and we want the children who may be a little behind in their schoolwork because we're able to catch kids up with their schoolwork."
Clark and Robinson, who are known in the south Brooksville community for their work at Shiloh New Beginnings Pillar of Truth Ministries, developed the ministry that led to the after-school program after a time of prayer and soul-searching a couple of years ago.
"The Lord put in our spirit that we complain too much about what the problem is in our community, and he directed to me that I was the problem," Clark said. "I questioned him and asked him how can I be the problem. He said, 'If you're not part of the solution, you are the problem.' ''
The men obtained the necessary clearance and began going to local schools at lunchtime.
"We were just being visible, letting the kids know that we are connected to the schools," Clark said. "We would sit in with them at lunch. That progressed into a lunch mentoring program where those who wished to be a part of our mentoring program volunteered and came out and ate lunch with us."
The men asked God what they were to do next.
"We sat down one day and God gave us the name Shiloh Problem Solvers, and he took us through the Scripture in the Book of Acts, the 10th chapter, the 38th verse, where it says that God sent Jesus of Nazareth and filled him with the Holy Ghost and power to fulfill the needs of the people.
"That's how we got started, just by going out and presenting ourselves as people who care, people who can be trusted, people who don't wait on finances — that's the key thing. We did not wait on finances to get started on anything that we did. God gave us a vision, and God will provide for us. And that's what we stand on."
Clark is hoping people will join with them in wanting to become part of the solution.
"We don't turn down donations of any sort," he said. "If you have time, time is the most valuable thing a person can offer our organization. If you've got some time that you could spend with a young man, that will be one of the greatest things you could impart into a young man's life in your community."