October 29, 2005 | By: Laura Skillman
fathers and children building bird houses

Fathers Matter was first piloted in Owensboro about five years ago.

The sounds of sandpaper on wood and hammers on nails filled the room as fathers and their children worked in tandem to build new homes for bluebirds.

Saturday’s activities were provided by the Daviess County 4-H Youth Development program, a part of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service. Participants are part of the Fathers Matter program.

Sara Hodge, director of Fathers Matter, said the idea behind the federally funded program is to bring positive male role models to children.

“Statistics show that having involvement of a male in a child’s life will keep them from dropping out of school, getting into drugs or any of those other obstacles they face as they grow up,” she said.

About five years ago, Kentucky decided a fatherhood initiative was needed, and Owensboro was selected as the site for the first pilot program. Since then, a number of other programs have spawned off of it, said Hodge, who is employed by the Owensboro Public Schools. There is a national fatherhood initiative.

Lewatis McNeal, Daviess County 4-H agent, sits on the board of Fathers Matters and has worked with the group on various programs. The bluebird house project was the first time Family Matters and 4-H have collaborated on a project, Hodge said.

“They pretty much have the same mission – help the families; help the kids,” she said. “So anytime we can collaborate with any of the local agencies, we try to do that.”

fathers and children building bird housesThe bluebird houses were McNeal’s idea and one Hodge said worked well with her program.

“Anytime you do anything that’s crafty and the family has to work together we feel like that’s an accomplishment in itself, and we were looking for new ideas,” she said. 

Working with a positive program such as Fathers Matter is a way to get more people in the community aware of 4-H and its programs, McNeal said. In a large county, getting the word out on your programs can be more challenging, he said. So collaborating with other groups is helpful.

“I’m very excited about this project because having a male role model can really make a difference in a child’s life, and this is a unique program,” he said. “To get a chance to work with this program as an Extension agent and as a father as well is such a wonderful opportunity.”

Building birdhouses is part of the 4-H wood science project.

“The project helps families work together to complete the project and follows 4-H’s model of learn by doing. This was a great opportunity to help people and get 4-H’s name out there at the same time. It’s a great program and I hope to continue to be able to work with it. It’s been a really positive experience.”


Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278

Contact: Lewatis McNeal, 270-685-8480