Message comes from a man who knew trouble, and turned away from it
By Leigh Hornbeck
Jerry Ford found trouble early. He was in and out of jail and served time in prison. When his oldest son was born, Ford started getting his life together — achieving a college degree and a job with the state."It took me awhile to come into myself," Ford said. "But when Jerry was born I knew I had to figure it out. I didn't want my son to look up to anyone else but me, his father, as a role model."Today, Ford is a role model for his three children, as well as hundreds of others at the Troy Boys & Girls Club. A mentoring program he started as a response to gun violence called "The Block Center," has reached more than 75 teens in Troy. In October, Maytag, a Boys & Girls Club corporate sponsor, recognized Ford's work with a $20,000 grant. He was one of only 12 recipients nationwide. Ford was presented with the award Oct. 13 at a gala at Franklin Plaza on 44th Street. He and the Troy Boys & Girls Club staff are still working out what they will do with the grant money, but Ford said it will include a financial literacy program and more field trips for Troy kids. Ford hopes to someday bring students to Washington so they can see how government works.Ford started volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club four years ago when his sons, now 13 and 10, started going. Ford's wife, Elvira, also volunteers. She's there on Friday nights so teens can play basketball, swim and eat a home-cooked meal. The couple also has a 2-year-old daughter.
Get connected: Troy Boys and Girls Club: For more information on the or to volunteer, call (518) 274-3781 or go to http://www.tbgc.org
Ford said he sees a lot of kids, some being raised by relatives, as he was, some who have already been in trouble with the law."They feel they have barriers to success in front of them they can never get over," Ford said. "We want our youth to develop good character. They need guidance, role models and mentorship. They need people outside of their families who care about them."It helps when the kids see volunteers who do it for free, he said, just because they want to get a message across: even though you may stumble, you can get up again.The work has been gratifying. In the first three weeks of this fall's session at the Block Center, 30 teens have attended each week — not just the core group, but friends of friends who hear about it.Ford's message is powerful because it comes from a man who knew trouble, and turned away from it."I give them me, raw and uncut, transparent. They look at me and say, 'if he can do it, I can do it.'"