As Maine Boys To Men moves towards celebrating its 20th anniversary next year, executive director Matt Theodores is quietly proud of the organization’s recent surge in services provided.
The nonprofit – dedicated to “helping boys reach their potential to become emotionally healthy, respectful, non-violent men” – increased its outreach “tenfold,” in the last 18 months, its outreach roughly matched that of the previous 10 years.
“We worked with and in about 45 middle schools and high schools statewide in that period, totaling more than 3,300 students and 2,500 adults,” Theodores said. “Adults” includes but is not limited to parents, faculty, coaches, and “expectant fathers.”
A key Maine Boys To Men component is RSVP, its “Reducing Sexism and Violence” leadership program for boys and girls ages 13-18. RSVP uses intensive workshops to present exercises, activities and real-life scenarios with the goal of empowering students to intervene in potentially harmful situations. “The idea is to create a student-led group that takes action around issues they recognize,” Theodores said.
The program has been recognized by the Maine Women’s Fund, and by the U.S. Department of Justice Office on Violence Against Women, which has even provided supportive funding.
“So just to be clear,” Theodores added, “we aren’t at all about ‘fixing boys,’ but about working together to fix problems in society that impact boys, the people in their lives, and all of us. The issues are related to sexism, gender assumptions, definitions of masculinity, and related violence. We believe that every boy has the potential to become an emotionally respectful, non-violent man.”
In addition to working in schools, Maine Boys To Men delivers a “boot camp for new dads and fatherhood,” a 3.5-hour workshop offered once a month at Maine Medical Center and at Mercy and Midcoast hospitals. “We know young fathers can have a tremendous positive impact,” Theodores said.
His business resume includes high-level corporate employment with IBM and Microsoft, but Theodores has always done volunteer work. The father of three sons, he served on the Boys To Men board before becoming director in fall 2014, and continues to volunteer with the Center For Grieving Children.
He expresses gratitude for the “incredible foundation” built by his predecessors. Boys To Men began in 1998 with a community coalition led by founder Layne Gregory, whose “vision” Theodores praises; and Drew Wing, who furthered the implementation of direct programming that is the organization’s core work today.
For its first seven years, an annual conference was Boys To Men’s centerpiece. The organization became a 501c3 nonprofit in 2004. Funding comes from community donors, corporate sponsors and local foundations. The staff consists of four people, Theodores included, aided by about 40 active volunteers.
Theodores admits to “feeling good,” about Maine Boys To Men’s progress, but he prefers to emphasize that “the demand keeps growing” for its services. “I now tend to talk about the tens of thousands of middle and high school students in Maine we’re not yet reaching,” he said. “My focus is now on making what we do best accessible to them.”
For more information about Maine Boys To Men and its programs and services, including volunteer orientation and training, please visit www.maineboystomen.org.
Tuesday, April 25, 6 p.m. Maine Boys to Men, The Greely PTO and Foundation 51 co-host a screening of the film “The Mask You Live In” at Greely Middle School in Cumberland.
The 2015 documentary by The Representation Project “follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity.” Free and open to the public.
Thursday, May 11, 6:30-9:30 p.m. Maine Boys To Men Annual Gala. The Landing at Pine Point, Scarborough. Live and silent auction, cash bar, hors d’ouvres by Black Tie Catering.
Tickets ($60) are limited. See www.maineboystomen.org or contact Katherine Doughty at 774-9994 or [email protected].
These monthly profiles are brought to you by Lee Auto Malls. The Lee family is committed to supporting local organizations that work to sustain Maine communities.