Meet Sheldon Smith, founder of the Dovetail Project, a Chicago-based nonprofit providing support and training to young fathers. Like so many of the young men who come through his doors, Smith grew up without a father to serve as a role model. “I remember my father said he was going to pick me up,” Smith says. “I sat on the porch all day, and he never came.” This absence eventually led to mistakes and time in jail. Heroically, Smith was able to turn his story into one of choice and coming-of-age: incarceration became motivation for the Dovetail Project, an effort in “breaking the cycle of fatherless homes.” This glimpse inside of Dovetail and the lives of its participants offers up a heart-warming mosaic in which individual stories of “manning up” echo both one another and, preemptively, a brighter future whose possibility would not have arisen without its broken past.


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  • Visit the Dovetail Project to learn more about the work and successes of Sheldon Smith’s initiative.
  • Learn about 14-year-old Jacob Cramer’s organization, Love for the Elderly, for a testimony to the power of the past to ignite change of unforeseen scale in the present and of the present to touch the past.
  • Are there organizations in your community or area that seek to  provide youth with healthy, positive foundations for life? Consider contributing to one of them. 

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