We are well into the New Year and my message to start the year is a bit overdue. The holiday spirit has come and gone and we now have a good idea of the challenges the election year results are going to present. For example, figuring out what tone to set for this message has been my first such challenge. It is tempting to join the rest of the world and devote space to some kind of political commentary. But there has been way too much rhetoric in that arena already. So let me stick to the review of what is most germane to our work on men’s issues and The Men’s Council. First, let me review the past year’s accomplishments.
April Gathering Report
The April Gathering of Men was both a financial and experiential success. Over 80 men registered to come and we were able to report a net gain of $1,211.29 which, added to what we carried over from last year, increased the total in the Gathering reserve fund to $5,663. Generous participants also helped to more than cover the $705 in scholarships we awarded so our Gathering scholarship fund increased from $2,616 to $2,856.
The event was marked with special tributes paid to our brother, Gregory Blaine, who lost his battle with cancer earlier in the year. We dedicated a bench made in his honor by Jim Neill’s brother, Louis, who generously created, built and donated this beautiful gift from special cypress wood. It now sits beside the lake at Camp Chestnut Ridge as a perpetual tribute. After the morning walk around the lake that Gregory had led in many previous years there was flute music and poetry reading around the fire as we brought his memory to life in that place. It was a fitting way to grieve the loss of this very special brother.
This year’s TMC NC Men’s Gathering will again be at Chestnut Ridge Camp and Retreat Center. The dates are April 21-23. There are two concurrent options for pre-Gathering sessions: Simon McCain – Dynamic Breathwork and Bill Finger – Understanding Our Stories through Creative Arts. We hope you are planning to join us. To find out more and to register go to TMC’s website: http://themenscouncil.org.
Giving Back Report
Another major accomplishment for 2016 was the official launching of Giving Back, TMC’s new philanthropic endeavor. Giving Back is conceived to be a way to support through both financial and volunteer work nonprofit programs and organizations that are primarily directing services and support to men in our communities. We envision this as a “giving circle” that increases the impact that we can have in supporting deserving programs beyond what any one of us alone might be able to achieve. Furthermore we envision it as a way of raising the TMC’s stature and visibility in our communities as a nonprofit organization. (For more information, please go to the TMC website http://themenscouncil.org/giving-back-2/.)
By the end of 2015 donors to Giving Back had committed $14,050 to seed its work. During 2016 another $30,442 was contributed to the project. Over the course of the year the Steering Committee identified eight programs and organizations to which checks totaling $29,150 were sent to support their work. We are delighted with this first year’s effort and are enthusiastic about the groups we have found to support. They include programs that are designed to provide young men with initiation experiences, mentoring programs, education in parenting skills, and programs designed to help men and women transitioning from incarceration or homelessness into society. For specifics on these organizations and programs go to http://themenscouncil.org/grant-recipients/. If you are so moved, we also invite your participation.
TMC Board Activities
In accordance with The Men’s Council’s bylaws, three members of the Board will end their current terms in April. They are Phil Cole, Jimie McBee, and Jim Neill. We are opening opportunities for members of the TMC family who might like to consider participating in overseeing the management and decision making process. Please contact me or one of the Board members if you would like to be considered for a position on the Board, or if you have a recommendation for someone you might think has special skills to offer so we can add them to our list of possible nominees to fill these positions.
Speaking of TMC’s bylaws we have revised the current bylaws in order to redefine the meaning of membership and how the Board is chosen. We have broadened membership to include all men who have attended TMC events or have contributed financially to our scholarship fund, the general operating fund or to Giving Back. You may opt out of membership if you do not wish to be listed as such. Board positions will no longer be elected by the membership. We also solicit broad input from individuals who have an interest in TMC’s mission and wish to submit ideas for the Board’s consideration. All Board meetings are open to anyone who might care to join the conversation. You may read the new version of the bylaws by going to THIS LINK. We welcome your feedback.
Finally, I want to do a little advertising. TMC has long supported the Joshua Project. The whole purpose of JP is to provide an initiation to young men, ages 13 to 18, in an attempt to provide what our society does not: a clear symbolic entry into adulthood. The founder, Philip Loydpierson, set the experience up to rely on older men to help create a safe container in which the young could be held for this work. I have long felt that I wanted to take the opportunity to attend one of their events but my schedule seemed perpetually to militate against it. Last month I finally got to one.
I highly recommend it. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the men who make these events happen, usually four times a year. It is a true work of love and dedication and a remarkable example of what transpires when a spirit of cooperation and open communication come together around a clear and honorable purpose. I want to mention in particular Rob Plaugher, Jarod Brown and Marcos Roberts who have taken over the organization and leadership of JP’s work. As a group they, Philip and other men who have become regular participants created an amazing energy for the initiation work that took place while I attended. This was not just a special experience for the young men, but I think that every man there, young and old, went away resonating with a powerful affirmation of his place in the world and as a male human being. The process of the weekend gives every soul in attendance the opportunity to stand before the company to be honored and recognized as worthy. How often do you get that? And watching the young men stand tall and claim their King energy was a gift I will carry with me for a long time.
We have had many discussions about how we are going to see the work of TMC carry forward into a future generation. What I witnessed and felt in my weekend with JP provided a possible answer. The energy and engagement there reminded me of my earliest experiences long ago at weekend workshops with Tom Daly. Magic happened there for me and I know those young men will carry a similar magic in their hearts for all time. I urge you to consider a weekend with these remarkable folks.
With profound gratitude for all our blessings,
President, The Men’s Council