Young men benefit from second chance

Published 4:31 pm Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Each year, Bikefest proceeds are awarded to various charitable organizations to help support their causes.

This year they will help provide second chances through The Layman Brotherhood Second Chance Outreach Center Inc., a first-time recipient this year.

A deep and caring concern for the plight of young men in this community has led the Rev. Adren Bivins Sr. to reach out and lend a helping hand through the organization he founded two years ago.

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The group meets the first, second and third Sundays of each month from 3 to 5:30 p.m. at the Bainbridge Church of God Annex, 205 Independent St. There they experience food and fellowship, motivational speakers, Bible study and recreation in the form of basketball. The third Sunday is family Sunday and Bivins’ wife, Sylvia, who helps with his work, offers a listening ear to other family members, especially the young girls who come for the services.

Bivins said 95 percent of the young men who come to the center have no father figure in their homes.

“They are being raised by grandmothers or single mothers and are in need of a father figure.”

That is what Bivins intends to provide.

Even before the organization was begun, the Bivins family often took young boys with no place to go into their home for various periods of time.

Some of the young men who come to the outreach center are court referred, while others are on the borderline of going the wrong way in life and need a positive direction—a second chance to turn their lives around before they enter the legal system. Bivins said he spends a lot of time in juvenile court and some in city court as well as working with the school system.

In addition to Bible study and program speakers, Bivins provides a healthy dose of “man talk” and the group of volunteers distributes school supplies, personal hygiene items and clothing when it is available and there is a need.

Bivins said he also distributes belts, especially when he sees young men with baggy, drooping drawers. And, he is not above telling dress code offenders to get a belt and hike up their pants.

The Outreach program appears to be experiencing success. Bivins cites figures of providing service to more than 100 young men over the past two years. Of those, six have gone back into the legal system. Ten have finished high school. Two are now in college and two are ready to sign up for the job corps.

The average attendance at the Sunday evening meetings is said to be between 25 and 30. The attention does not stop there, however, as Bivins said he gets home calls all week—night and day—from people seeking help.

The acquisition of a 15-passenger van has enabled Bivins to take the young men on field trips to ball games and church meetings. It also provides transportation for those who need a ride to and from the center.

Pastor Dan Tomlin and the Church of God congregation have given support and help by allowing the outreach rent-free use of the facility. There has also been community support from individuals and businesses. The Laymen Brotherhood Second Chance Outreach Center Inc. has also been approved to receive financial help from the United Way in the upcoming year.

Some of the speakers have been District Attorney Joe Mulholland, deputies from the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office with the canine drug dogs, former Capt. Cecilia Willis and Capt. Chip Nix. Others have addressed such pertinent topics as current events and health issues, especially Aids education.

From personal experience

Bivins draws on many of his personal experiences to provide counseling and direction.

“I know where these boys come from cause I was there,” said Bivins. His own father died when Bivins was age 9, and he remembers the men in the community helping provide direction for him and his brothers. He describes his mother, now in her 90s, as a good, strong, Christian woman who raised the family of five without a father.

“All the boys went to college,” he adds.

He tells the young men that if he could get where he is in life today, then they can too, with the right example and motivation.

“We need to fight drugs. They create most of the problems we see today,” said Bivins. There again he speaks from first-hand knowledge as he recalls the personal tragedies he has witnessed in his family. He said last September he eulogized his brother, who died at the age of 57 from kidney failure and lung cancer, which Bivins said all came from his long-time drug usage.

Years ago his brother-in-law had planned on being a doctor, but got hooked on drugs and committed suicide after shooting Bivins’ sister. Although she did not die, there were two neighbor children playing in the home. An 11-year-old girl was shot and killed, and an 8-year-old boy was paralyzed from the waist down as a result of gun shots.

The outreach program is open to all young boys and men, aged 9-20, regardless of race or circumstances.

“I have an interest in working with these youths, hoping to help make a difference in someone’s life. The only requirement is that they must have a willing mind to change their path,” said Bivins.

He is encouraged that a second outreach program patterned after this one is being started in Blakely.