Doug Lester and The Men’s Council
In the pre-Internet days of November, 1986 a group of about thirty men, responding to flyers, phone calls and word of mouth invitations, gathered at the Raleigh YMCA to explore interest in a “men’s center.” The success of The Women’s Center of Raleigh and the lack of a comparable program for men, as well as a growing national focus on men’s issues, fueled the conversation that day. Doug Lester attended this meeting and remained involved in the organization it spawned throught the remainder of his life.
Doug’s gift for promotion and ability to translate his passion into collective action were key elements in the early success of The Men’s Center of Raleigh and Wake County (changed to The Men’s Council in 2013). He attended the Minnesotta Men’s Conference in the Fall of 1987, where he met national leaders including Robert Bly, James Hillman and Michael Meade. He would soon engage in local events on behalf of mytho-poetic men’s work. Simultaneously, Doug served as the first Vice President of TMC (a position he would hold off and on for many years) and coordinated the growing support group program. His compassion for the challenges faced by men, including emotional isolation, fueled his efforts on behalf of groups and collective fellowship. Doug’s persuasive enthusiasm lead to newspaper articles, radio interviews, and a growing recognition in the Raleigh community of TMC as a resource for men.
Winsgpan Journal saluted TMC in its Summer 1990 issue for its participation in the NC Adopt-A-Highway program. In the accompanying photo Doug and three others are shown with tools in hand standing in front of “The Men’s Center” sign as they care for a section of Hammond Road in downtown Raleigh; just one more example of Doug’s gift for combining concern, promotion and action. Doug assisted Fred Stephens in recruitment of national leaders and promotion for the Southeastern Men’s Conferences which Fred produced in the early 1990’s. Additonally, Doug promoted & coordinated local weekend retreats in the Raleigh area led by men like Tom Daley and David Schiffman.
The inspiration for the annual NC Gathering of Men (NCGOM), which began in 1996, came from an Elders group headed by Doug. He worked to link men’s groups in the Triad area and Western NC on behalf of this annual conference produced and led by local (primarily NC) men. His initial vision was to bring together the considerable talent, commitment and expertise of the men he’d come to know over his years of men’s work in order to create a completely volunteer-run weekend retreat for men. The continued success of the NCGOM reflects the wisdom and accuracy of Doug’s intial vision.
Throughout the 1990’s Doug remained part of TMC’s leadership council, serving as President for a time, and actively involved in all facets of the organization. As the 2000’s unfolded, energy for men’s work shifted. Various aspects of TMC became less energetic, funding became more problematic, the number of support groups diminished, and by 2013 the organization’s primary was to sponsor of the NCGOM and little more. Through the efforts of Bron Skinner and Jim Neill a resurgence of TMC activities & presence in the community (including a presence on social media) was initiated, and Doug was part of the new leadership council. His primary interests remained promotion for the NCGOM and revitalization of the support group program of TMC.
When the TMC Leadership Council decided to start a philanthropic effort Doug was an enthusiastic supporter. He helped come up with the name Giving Back as a perfect expression of what he and TMC have tried to do throughout the years since its inception.