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'He Didn't Judge Me': Mentor Guides Troubled Fathers To Be Better Parents, Find Stability

Lara Solt
KERA News special contributor
Reggie Moss talks to Eric Gregory and his son, Destin, 8, during a session as part of Fatherhood EFFECT, a program for Educating Fathers for Empowering Children Tomorrow at NewDay Services in Fort Worth.

Reggie Moss is a mentor to men of all ages, but mostly, to fathers struggling to raise their kids. He works at a faith-based nonprofit in Fort Worth with a mission to make better dads.

'I can either go this way or that'

Eric Gregory sits with his 8-year-old son, Destin, and talks with his mentor, Reggie Moss. Gregory meets with Moss about once a week. They talk on the phone on a regular basis and have been meeting for about three years.

Gregory remembers the first time he called Moss. He was under a lot of pressure, facing a court date over missed child support payments and a possible drug charge.

“I’m sitting here thinking by myself in this parking lot, ‘I can either go this way right now or that way. Go ahead and just try to make a bunch of money, just so I could have some money for my son because I might have to go to jail.’ And then, I had Mr. Reggie’s number.”

Credit Lara Solt / KERA News special contributor
KERA News special contributor
Eric Gregory and his 8-year-old son, Destin.

Gregory has already served several stints behind bars — for robbery and drugs. Raised without a father himself, Gregory didn’t want to do the same to Destin. Gregory thinks of Moss as his lifeline.

“He listened to me and offered his advice and wisdom. [He] didn’t judge me at all, Gregory says. "And that’s the one thing I remember, that’s the one thing that’ll give me goosebumps — that he didn’t judge me.”

Moss says most of the fathers they work with at NewDay Services in Fort Worth didn’t have their own fathers in their lives growing up.  

“You’d be surprised how many dads we've got [whose] Grandma raised them,” he says.

Seeking change, needing direction

Moss helps fathers — most of them in trouble — navigate the legal system, the workplace and parenthood. He’s been mentoring men like Gregory for years.

“I like helping people. It’s a passion for me," he says. "When we first meet, I’m listening to you. Because the idea is: ‘This is your life.’ Where are we going?' We talk about 'How did we get here?' and 'Where are we trying to go?'”  

It sounds so reasonable. For men from dysfunctional homes with addictions or criminal records, or who are estranged from their kids, Moss says logic can get lost. 

“You’re wanting to change; you don’t know how. You’re trying to come up with a plan; you don’t know how. And you sit down and start talking about it, things start clearing up and getting in order for you," Moss says. "We’ve got an actual action plan that they write out. So let’s take a look at what you’re doing. Let’s take a look at it step by step and stay focused on where you’re trying to go.”

Credit Lara Solt / KERA News special contributor
KERA News special contributor
Eric Gregory (left) talks to his son, Destin (center), with his mentor, Reggie Moss (right). They meet once a week.

Moss is the best at what he does says Stephen Goodman, who leads the NewDay Services mentoring program.

“My friend Reggie Moss is one of the finest individuals I’ve met in this community, and I’ve been in Fort Worth since 1978," he says. "He ministers, in the supportive sense of that word, to almost any man he engages. He listens. I can’t help you if I won’t listen to you.”

Moss says he learned how to listen – and how to mentor — from the best teacher. His father was a pastor at Fort Worth’s First St. John church for decades.

“You get to see what really goes on in the church," Moss says. "You get to see people’s lives for real. You get to sit there in action with the pastor one on one with people in need.”

A 'guiding light'

Moss says ministering in church and helping troubled fathers are the same thing. He uses lessons learned from his father to guide men like Eric Gregory. Gregory, in turn, seems to be passing those lessons on to his son, Destin.

Credit Lara Solt / KERA News special contributor
KERA News special contributor
Destin says his father, Eric Gregory, has changed with the help of NewDay Services.

“He doesn’t get in trouble anymore,” Destin says. “Bad trouble. Really bad trouble.”

Like when he was in jail. That’s when Destin missed him the most. Or when Dad had limited visitation rights.

“Only on Thursdays I got to see him for two hours," Destin says. "We tried to watch a movie and then we had to leave in the middle of it.”

Destin says things are better now. Gregory feels back on track, thanks to Moss. He thinks of Moss not as a father, but more like a Greek god. Actually, he says, Athena, the goddess, who helped guide Odysseus home. 

“And just being that guiding light, with her eyes shining bright. So when I look at Mr. Reggie — not to put you in the female goddess perspective — but it’s a non-judgmental, unbiased guide. Whenever you want to follow what you know you need to do, here goes the way. And it never wavers.”

Credit Lara Solt / KERA News special contributor
KERA News special contributor
Reggie Moss says he uses lessons he learned in church to help struggling fathers.

Something else that hasn’t wavered? His bond with his son, Destin. Inspired by his dad and Reggie Moss, Destin found a quote about achieving goals and memorized it.

“And that quote was, ‘Just set you a goal and see where you go, and I bet you’ll end up in a good place. And that’s how it finishes.  Set your goal, see where you go and I bet you end up in a good place.”

Eric Gregory and his son say they’ve achieved that goal. And they have someone to thank for that — Mr. Reggie. 

This summer, KERA’s education reporters are profiling folks making a difference in North Texas schools. We’re calling them American Graduate Champions.

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.