The Triangle Men’s Center (TMC), which began as the Raleigh Men’s Center in 1986, is an all-volunteer service organization dedicated to promoting the wholeness and well-being of men. It grew out of a series of informal discussions culminating in two meetings at Raleigh’s YMCA in November, 1986 to determine 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 this interest. Doug Lester, Fred Stephens, and Doug Jennette were at the first organizational meeting along with approximately 30 other men. Fred had experienced men’s gatherings with Robert Bly in California, and offered a mytho-poetic perspective/experience to the meeting. Several men were interested in support groups, and others wanted to form an organization to address different needs of men in the community.
By early l987, the formal organization was underway with efforts toward incorporation, by-laws, and creation of a board of directors. Doug Jennette served as the first President of the TMC and participated in the bi-weekly discussion/programs held at the old United Way headquarters on Wake Forest Road in Raleigh, NC. Doug Lester and Doug Jennette attended a men’s gathering in spring, 1987 and the Minnesota Men’s Conference in fall, 1987 where they encountered Robert Bly, Michael Mead, and James Hillman. This led to the first major TMC event in the spring of 1988, an evening poetry reading at Meredith College and day-long men’s gathering with Robert Bly at Camp Durant in Raleigh, with about 150 men attending.
The late 1980s into the mid-1990s saw TMC sponsor weekend retreats with leaders such as Michael Mead, Tom Daly, David Schiffman, and Robert Bly. Fred Stephens produced a number of week-long Southeastern Men’s Conferences with leaders like Robert Bly, Michael Mead, James Hillman, Robert Moore, and John Stokes, which were independent from, but complemented TMC activities. TMC support groups grew in number, and monthly programs flourished. A Fall Feast retreat and Ritual Group were added later. In 1996, a North Carolina Annual Gathering of Men was started, co-sponsored with the Men’s Council of the Triad.
The inspiration for the Annual Gathering of Men came from an Elders Group headed by Doug Lester. The idea was that the Triangle and Triad areas of NC had experienced men who could produce a weekend retreat with local talent for workshops, large group process, poetry, and ritual without importing big names from the national scene. The success of the Annual Gathering, held each year since 1996, demonstrates the accuracy of that initial assessment. It has become a fixture on the spring calendar of such events and attracts men from North Carolina and neighboring states. It is unique in that it is planned and conducted by an all-volunteer group of men from a variety of NC communities and a membership that fluctuates from year to year, but never diverges from its goal to create a safe, welcoming space where men can meet, share, and explore their inner world of self and self in relationship.
In recent years, TMC has sponsored the Annual Gathering as almost its single activity with little effort to expand or update the way the organization operated. At the 18th Annual Gathering, a workshop that was conducted by Jim Neill and Bron Skinner explored the question of the future of TMC. As a consequence of that workshop, the TMC Leadership Council was reconstituted with 10 new volunteer members. The TMC membership was updated to be those who attended the 18th Annual Gathering.
At the first meeting of that Leadership Council Bron Skinner was appointed President and Jim Neill Vice-President and the Leadership Council decided that it was time to consider expanding the range of influence of the organization beyond the confines implied by the designation as “Triangle Men’s Center.” Subsequently “The Men’s Council” became the new name thus honoring the mythopoetic traditions of the organization and leaving open the question of geographic affiliation. The LC also began an ambitious process of re-examining the Mission and Vision for the TMC, and revising the bylaws of the organization.
It was also at this time that the individuals working with TMC began to seek ways to take full advantage of the technology of social media to provide men with information about activities and programs of interest to men, avenues of support, connections with other men and outlets for creative expression. The website was redesigned by Larry Sorkin and Jim Neill to be the most public face of the TMC as an organization. A TMC Facebook page created another opportunity where information about TMC’s work, programs and activities could be disseminated. At this time, there was a renewed interest in providing men in communities around NC with opportunities to get together more regularly than the Annual Gathering. Through the website men interested in men’s work have been able to obtain information about when meetings in their community at to occur as well as advertise events that they might want to arrange themselves.
In 2015, Graham Gell, Don Tyson, and Larry Sorkin led the Men’s’ Council Board to form a Philanthropic Committee to explore and create a committee to raise funds through donations The goal is to fund grant requests from nonprofits that support men and boys to build better lives. In the fall of that year, the Board voted to officially form the “Giving Back” project to raise funds and vet grants from nonprofits. The Giving Back project, began 2016 with $17,500 raised, vetted four organizations and approved the first four grants in June of 2016.
TMC continues to work as an organization to honor the mythopoetic traditions of men’s work, to stay abreast of new ideas and modern trends that affect gender identity, and find ways to support and challenge men to fully realize their potential as human beings. Its leadership is open to new ideas and fresh perspectives and is looking for men who want to actively participate in fulfilling its mission and vision for the future.