NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY)– The Rev. Haywood Barnes Jr. isn’t a man of many words.
Instead, he’s a man of action and is committed to helping highlight the importance of father figures in the community.
So, for the last 15 years, he’s traveled to schools throughout Newport News, Gloucester, and Hampton helping coordinate a program called “ALL PRO DAD.”
He coordinates the events at schools, where fathers, uncles, grandparents, or any male figure in a kid’s life comes in to eat breakfast with them. Barnes says he started helping because he understands the father-child relationship and that it helps community.
“I believe in my heart these breakfasts reduce the crime rate 20 percent or more,” he said.
Elaine Barnes, Haywood’s wife, believes this all stems back to his time as a paramedic and chaplain at the old City Farm prison.
“He began to bring young men home with us, who did not have fathers or a place to go. I think that’s where it started from. He doesn’t have a son biologically but if you travel around Newport News, you’ll hear ‘pop’ and you know where that started from,” she said.
Because of his dedication over the years, the Newport News Sheriff’s Office awarded him “Volunteer Citizen of the Year,” but Sheriff Gabe Morgan says Barnes couldn’t make the ceremony.
So, he presented Barnes with his award in front of the dozens of students and their father figures.
“This program is tremendous in two ways,” Morgan said. “One, it helps the male figures connect with the kids and show their support for the children. As you heard from the comments, smiles, and enthusiasm of the children, they love having them here because it’s a sign of support. In this generation with social media pressuring the kids — to know adults are taking time out for them is so important.”
Morgan also believes it goes both ways by benfiting the adults as well.
“I will tell you if you see the smiles on the adult’s faces, that speaks volumes. You know what, just like the children, they want to be appreciated. When the children are making the comments about their male supporters, what you see are the smiles and the hugs and see its mutual. You know what, these kids are going to have a great day today,” he said.
Barnes agreed and says that it’s all about recognizing relationships.
“Words of affirmation are important and very powerful. If you noticed when the dads spoke, they identified the child, ‘This is my child,'” he said.
Barnes says ALL PRO DAD just expanded into its first school in Hampton. After all these years, he’s still excited to help out.
“It’s a real blessing, a real blessing,” he said.