Dads Are The BestJun 16, 2022 09:34PM ● By Adrienne Ross
“I was raised to always leave things better than the way I found them,” Joshua Benson, the founder of Howard County Dads, stated. In 2013, he and his wife moved to Ellicott City, knowing that this was the place they wanted to raise a family. The county had everything they were looking for in a community for their family to grow and flourish. After settling into their new home, they soon had two little boys running around. Joshua’s wife, a Howard County Community College educator, started to work on Saturday mornings. “My kids ran circles around me while I cared for them while my wife went to work. HoCo Dads (Howard County Dads) was founded out of desperation.” After a quick Google search and deep dive into social media groups, he asked himself, “Where are the dads?” Benson started a Facebook group in 2018 and quickly realized if there was such a large response, there was obviously a need for more. So, the non-profit was started in conjunction. “This isn’t mine; this is something the community owns.”
The mission of HoCo Dads is clear. It is to promote fatherhood involvement within families in and around Howard County. Parenthood can be a difficult road to navigate, but modern dads don’t have to travel it alone. “I thought that I didn’t know how to navigate through fatherhood because of the lack of role models; that’s not the case. The more fathers I meet, the more I realize the rules are different these days, and everyone is trying to redefine what fatherhood is.” The pandemic accentuated the need for this organization even more, with everyone at home and traditional roles being blurred. “Suddenly, everyone is responsible for everything.”
There are many aspects to the organization. Two monthly meetups for dads and kids on Saturday mornings allow dads to bring their children to planned activities in the area. For example, they go on firehouse tours, have a playground meetup, or go fishing. It’s an excellent way for dads to meet other dads with children the same age. Also, members are encouraged to post every Thursday with upcoming activities they’re participating in that week and can invite others. Another aspect, the Facebook group provides a forum for deeper conversations in a safe environment. Dads can post about their emotional or financial struggles or their child’s emotional hardships or difficulties. Fathers are there to support, and professional resources are available to them.
Howard County Dads reaches far beyond social media. They are heavily involved in the community as well. At the end of the holiday season, they have a diaper drive to support young fathers through the Howard County Health Department. Last December, they donated over 750 diapers and over 300 lbs since they started. Through their Dad Power Up program, a father in need can be nominated, or they can fill out an application for assistance if their family is experiencing financial, physical, emotional, or mental hardship. This group of men can lean on each other when times get tough. The group hosts a Dads Chasing Excellence bonfire on the first Saturday of the month. It’s a low-key atmosphere where fathers can share advice on becoming better dads, spouses, and community members. They discuss lighter topics, from the struggles of potty training to deeper conversations, such as their child is being bullied at school. “The game has changed; everybody is figuring it out; the best thing we can do is bring the camaraderie together. Moms figured that out a long time ago.”
Howard County Dads’ membership is strong and growing. Their Facebook page has over 800 members, and 600 members actively post each week. “Some dads are reluctant to give up their man cave but are ready to brag about their playroom.” If this might be you, I encourage you to check out this amazing organization or steer a father in the direction of this group. “Dads need to be held to the same standards as moms. We can’t rest on something good when we have the chance to make it better.”