Local nonprofit leader attends ‘fatherhood summit’ in D.C.

When Ward Williams thinks back on his childhood, he remembers years spent without his father when Williams could have used him most.

Now, it’s Williams’ mission to help today’s absent fathers understand it doesn’t need to be that way.

Williams, the executive director of Vineyard Family Services in Hoover, a nonprofit dedicated to helping men become better, more available fathers, attended a ‘fatherhood summit’ in Washington D.C. June 21.

“It’s an important issue. Fathers are the most efficient and cost-effective social service entity out there,” Williams said.

Williams was one of 300 leaders of fatherhood programs from across the country to attend the summit, which allowed the leaders to meet and listen to President Barack Obama make a speech about new federal fatherhood initiatives.

“It’s an honor. I don’t think anyone else from Alabama was asked. That’s a big deal,” Williams said. “I think this issue, to the president, is something personal and something he cared about. I think a lot of his ambition is because he grew up without a father.”

Williams said he was invited to the summit after speaking at a regional White House conference on fatherhood in Atlanta in December. A few months ago, he participated in a White House conference call gathering ideas for fatherhood initiatives.

Williams said through his work with fathers and the families missing their fathers, he’s realized something essential about himself.

“A lot of the things I didn’t get as a kid, I’m getting now because I’m giving them to my kids,” he said.

Williams said he also realizes most fathers want to be there for their families — they just don’t know how to do so.

“Men don’t want to be bad dads. That’s why agencies like mine are important. We need to get the conversation started. Men need help like women do, and it’s much easier for women to get help,” he said. “There are agencies like us who help men make the right decisions and make an impact on society in many different ways.”