Off The Edge


“When men stand up, boys will get in line, girls will feel cared for, women will feel provided for, families will feel protected, and communities will be safe.”

That is the philosophy of the Rev. Bernard Clark, who recently co-founded a new organization called Off the Edge with his wife Latonia Clark.

On Nov. 13, 2009, Off the Edge hosted a dinner for men and their families who live and work throughout the Chicago area. These men and their families face issues that break down the family structure and cause problems in low–income communities.

“This dinner was the start of many new beginnings to come,” said Lucinda Griggs, a volunteer member of Off the Edge. “Building a relationship with the men and families in our communities is important.”
The men at the dinner were served food prepared by the volunteer staff.

“The food was very good and this was a great experience,” said Juan Rodriguez, a participant in the program. “I was able to talk with other young men who are facing the same issues I face.”

Nicole Malcolm, an artist affiliated with the group, said, “Off the Edge should have these dinners at least once a month. That way our families and community can come together and talk about things that can better our neighborhoods.”

Among the community men that attended the dinner were Earl Williams, founder of the Charles Hurston Alternative School, Dr. Roosevelt Walker Jr., pastor of New Memorial Baptist Church, and Harold Bailey, a candidate for the US Congress.

These men spoke about the different organizations with which they have been involved as well as some of the issues they faced growing up in low-income communities.

Walker was the main speaker for the event. “Men are the providers, protectors and leaders of the family,” Walker said.

He quoted various Biblical scriptures to support his points and encouraged the men to step up to make a difference in their communities.

“I’m willing to help where ever I’m needed,” Walker told Residents’ Journal. “This program is very helpful to the men in the community. The most important thing Off the Edge can offer the men is spiritual guidance to gain our communities back.”

As the Off the Edge dinner came to an end, Clark asked the men to fill out evaluation forms to help him design the group’s services.

Participant Michael Franklin wrote, “The food was good and the message was encouraging, so I’m going to tell other people about Off the Edge and get involved on many levels.”

“This is my first time ever being to anything like this,” Tommy Lockeet exclaimed. “The food was great and the people are nice. If they have any more events and activities, I will definitely get more involved.”

Off the Edge’s co-founder Latonia Clark told RJ, “This agency is working with men ages 18-35 to help them gain social skills, job readiness and obtain an education so they can be leaders and positive assets to their family and community.”

Off the Edge will have mentors working with the men on self identification of issues such as education, employment, communication skills, leadership skills and adequate grooming techniques.

“The men will have to set short-term goals that they will accomplish,” said Latonia Clark. “They will attend resource workshops and spiritual guidance workshops. They will be active with their families by attending school activities and helping their children with homework.”

Participants are expected to volunteer their time to help better the community and make positive changes in their lives as well as in the other young men with whom they come into contact.

“Off the Edge’s goals for 2010 are to generate a case load of 50-75 men ages 18-35, and assist them with employment, obtaining a turn-out rate of 60 percent or better,” explained Latonia Clark. “Off the Edge will gain support from people and foundations that understand the vision and mission of this agency.

This is to give the men access to resources that will encourage them and help them reclaim their place as head of the family, no matter their race, religion, or neighborhood.

“We all have been off the edge, either right inside the edge where we are barely getting by or just outside of the edge where we are trying to gain access to a better life.”

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