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The Star Democrat: Franchot presents WDS Helping People Award to Men for Change organization
March 1, 2019
FEDERALSBURG — Men for Change, a faith-based youth mentoring nonprofit in Federalsburg, is Caroline County’s 2018 winner of the William Donald Schaefer Helping People Award.
Comptroller Peter Franchot annually recognizes one winner in each of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions with the award he established in 2012 in honor of former governor and comptroller Schaefer’s 50-year legacy of service to others.
Franchot presented the award Thursday, Feb. 28, at Park Lane Church of God in Federalsburg to Men for Change founders and brothers, the Rev. Stanford and David Ricks.
“Hats off to Men For Change for exemplifying the mentality Gov. Schafer had and recognizing the challenges your community faces,” Franchot said.
David Ricks said the organization was founded in 2008 after he and his brother had attended the funerals of too many black men whose lives had been cut short by drugs and gun violence.
“We’ve got problems around here,” David Ricks said. “What we’re trying to do is to catch them while they’re young.”
One-and-one and group sessions allow volunteer mentors to interact with youth while teaching them skills, health tips and life principles.
In addition, the organization offers recreational, cultural and educational trips for youth.
Some of the youth come from dysfunctional homes without a strong male role model, David Ricks said.
“Men for Change mentors help fill that void through mentoring and interaction in their lives, creating lasting relationships,” he said.
In 2013, women joined the organization to mentor young girls as well.
Stanford Ricks said mentors now meet with 20 to 30 youth every Friday after school, and more youth during the summer.
“Every kid is important,” he said.
David Ricks thanked the family, local clergy, community leaders, businesses, parents, volunteers and mentors who have made the organization a success.
Betty Jarman, the Ricks’s sister and the person who nominated Men for Change for the award, read a poem written by the late Henry Wilson, who had been a mentor.
Three current mentees spoke about their experiences.
Jaylin Bivans said she has participated for about four years.
A recent Colonel Richardson High School graduate, Bivans said she is starting classes at Chesapeake College next month to pursue a teaching career.
“They have been nothing but encouraging,” Bivans said. “I hope to someday become a mentor.”
Olivia Thompson said she has also participated for about four years. She is preparing to graduate from Colonel Richardson High School this spring, then go to college to study psychology.
Kyle Richards, a high school freshman, said he just started attending.
“They are really starting to help me grow,” Richards said.
Before presenting the award, Franchot said the Ricks brothers saw a community fractured by the deaths of men far too young and knew something needed to be done.
“I’m so grateful for Men For Change,” Franchot said. “It’s on the front lines, dealing with real people that they understand and know.
God bless government, but government is not really good at what you are good at, which is knowing the people who are need of help and giving them something that recognizes who they are and what their intention is,” Franchot said.
Franchot said a state as rich as Maryland should direct some of its resources to organizations like Men for Change. He said he would tell Gov. Larry Hogan, who is always interested in creating safe havens around the state for young people, about the “jewel of an organization,” and offered grant-writing assistance.
“Youth carry the responsibility of the future on their shoulders,” Franchot said. “It is incumbent upon us, the adults, to nourish and strengthen the hope, the brilliance and the humanity we heard these three kids express.
“I cannot impress upon all of us the importance of having mentors,” Franchot continued. “The way we operate these days in society is so fractured; we need real people of character providing examples and advice to these young people.”
Federalsburg Mayor Chuck Planner said Men for Change is an energetic group that has done a lot for the community beyond mentoring, including helping with several town clean-ups.
Caroline County Commission President Larry Porter said Caroline is a county of volunteers.
“Today is a perfect example of that,” Porter said.
Commission Vice President Dan Franklin added the adults involved in the organization are not just doing great work to build a stronger community, but they are bringing along the youth to continue the tradition.
Caroline County State’s Attorney Joe Riley said he met David Ricks when they both volunteered to help clean up Chambers Park.
“I am overwhelmed by his positivity,” Riley said.
Federalsburg Police Chief Mike McDermott said strong families make a big difference, but not everyone has one.
“Men for Change is much appreciated,” McDermott said.