Ramone Pays it Forward to Other Fathers
Ramone loves spending time with his two beautiful children. When he picks them up on Fridays at 3:30 p.m. they enjoy going out for ice cream and playing at the park.
“When they see me coming to pick them up, they jump up and down and are so excited,” he says. “The most important thing to me is just spending time with them.”
While most parents love spending time with their children, the time that Ramone gets with them is extra special. Just a few years ago, he had no contact with his children, and that low point in his life led him to reach out to Father Project.
Father Project is Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota’s (GESMN) program that provides services for non-custodial dads, assisting fathers in overcoming the barriers that prevent them from supporting their children economically and emotionally.
“I was in the middle of a fight for my children. I was a good guy that was pushed to my edge and making bad decisions,” Ramone explains. “I just wanted to give up on life. But then I reached out to Father Project and started going through the classes, telling my story and all I had been through. People were blown away.”
Ramone owned his own business and was doing well for himself. But when the court asked him to pay child support that was beyond what he could afford, he told them it was not possible.
“I don’t mean to say that a man doesn’t need to take care of his children,” Ramone explains. “But the amount the courts are asking for is often times unrealistic.”
“I told them I couldn’t pay it,” Ramone says. “I said if I had to pay that much, I would lose my childcare, which would make me lose my job and that would make me lose my home. That is exactly what happened; I lost everything.”
After losing his job and apartment, Ramone and his kids lived out of his 2002 Chevy Trailblazer for about three weeks. He went from making $25 an hour, to applying for government assistance within five months of the court mandate that he pay child support.
To make matters worse, after a disagreement with his children’s mother, he lost custody of his children. “Before their mom and I broke up, I was with my kids every day. I always took care of my kids and they loved me. I would do anything for them.”
“Father Project helped my maneuver through the court system without snapping out. They helped my stay calm, stay cool and work things out the right way,” Ramone says. “When I first came to Father Project, my goal was to work things out with my kids’ mom. We were not going to be together, but we didn’t need to be enemies. Our kids don’t care about how we feel about each other; they just care about growing up with two parents that love them.”
After completing his classes and getting expert consultation through Father Project, Ramone’s next step was to find work and forge a new career path.
“I got on the Next Door app and people were looking for help with odd jobs,” he says. “I didn’t know how to do any landscaping work, but a lady posted that she needed help, so I went to help her.”
“I think she knew I wasn’t sure what I was doing,” Ramone chuckles, “but she was out there helping me and it ended up looking really beautiful. Then the lady across the street saw what I did, she hired me and that turned out beautiful too. I took what little knowledge I had gained and I just kept getting hired through word of mouth because I did a good job. Now, I am a rock star on Next Door! I have over 300 recommendations.”
When Ramone got so busy that he needed to start hiring staff and he knew where to go. He had a unique chance to pay it forward to other dads enrolled in the Father Project.
“I reached out to Father Project and let them know I was looking to hire people. I asked them to send me guys who needed work,” he says. “I hire these guys without judgement and pay them between $15 and $30 an hour depending on what the job is. It was important for me to help these guys because a lot of them are struggling to pay their child support and I’ve been there. Now, a lot of them are able to take this money to go get special things for their kids.”
“Father Project helped me every step of the way. I went from losing my kids to now having 50% custody and a successful business. And that’s because of Father Project.”