Personality: Stephan A. Hicks

Spotlight on founder of nonprofit My Brother’s Keeper of Greater Richmond

2/1/2019, 6 a.m.
“Men are the greatest resource in our city. However, services focusing on men in Richmond are severely lacking. When it …

“Men are the greatest resource in our city. However, services focusing on men in Richmond are severely lacking. When it comes to helping men get on their feet, there is little offered.”

This is the sentiment of Stephan A. Hicks, 57, of South Side. It also is the driving force behind My Brother’s Keeper of Greater Richmond, a nonprofit Mr. Hicks founded in 2009 to uplift and empower men to reach their greater potential.

“Coach,” as he is called by the nearly 1,000 men his program has mentored in the past decade, is a God-driven passionate leader wearing many hats. He is a facilitator, coordinator, spiritual mentor, motivational speaker, life coach and trainer.

“People think that men should have it together by a particular age,” Mr. Hicks says. “But the truth is, because of violence, economic disadvantages and other social factors, when men are not where they should be, people should not look down on them, but try to offer them a hand up.”

MBKGR provides a safe place on Carnation Street in Richmond’s South Side where males ages 13 and older can come and share their struggles, receive manhood and fatherhood training as well as mentoring from other men.

The nonprofit’s mission reflects what was absent in Mr. Hicks’ past, as well as his dreams for the future for African-American men and the challenges facing them daily — connecting with each other, gaining practical and spiritual guidance, and getting support to become better husbands, partners, fathers, brothers, uncles and sons.

“Self-improvement is the key in our work, addressing men’s frequently identified under-developed skills — interpersonal communication, anger management and conflict resolution,” he says.

Through small group interactive workshops and seminars, MBKGR helps men address their seemingly overwhelming issues.

Using retreats and conferences throughout the year, including a 14-week life skills course covering co-parenting, job seeking, career development and financial planning, men learn to improve their lifestyles and become responsible citizens.

The organization also has a “Suits for Success” program and the annual “Manny Awards.”

“Suits for Success,” Mr. Hicks explains, came from attending job fairs where employers were ready to hire at a moment’s notice. He observed how woefully underdressed young men were. With appearance being important, Mr. Hicks says he knew some of the men didn’t have or couldn’t afford a suit.

“If you are struggling, buying a suit, which may average $200, is not an important purchase,” he says.

As an adolescent who grew up without a father in Alabama, Mr. Hicks dropped out of high school and later moved to Baltimore, where his father lived. He realized job skills were a necessity. Subsequently, he earned a GED, developed computer skills and started to work in the administrative field.

He got married and had two children, which he says “added to the pressure to provide for myself and my family.”

Struggling, he turned to vices, developing a crack cocaine addiction that sent him on a path of personal destruction, incarceration and, upon release, homelessness.

At age 40, he moved to Richmond, alone, which he says gave him a change of environment and a chance to start over in a place where people didn’t know him.

The fresh start resulted in earning a certificate in digital communication, studying psychology at Liberty University and landing a research administrator position at Virginia Commonwealth University before retiring after 16 years.

“I have been very successful in turning my life around,” Mr. Hicks states humbly.

He also is proud of the organization’s annual “Manny Awards” that are designed to celebrate men who have overcome problems and obstacles with the help of family, faith and community.

“I can relate and understand the issues and life problems these men go through,” he says. “When they meet me, they are not met with judgment or pre-determined ideas about them.

“They are met with love and compassion and an understanding of the struggles they are going through in their lives. Through that, they allow me to impart life skills that I wished I had learned earlier.”

Meet an advocate for men and this week’s Personality, Stephan A. Hicks:

Community involvement: Founder and executive director, My Brother’s Keeper of Greater Richmond.

Date and place of birth: April 24 in Montgomery, Ala.

Current residence: South Side.

Education: Associate degree in psychology and pursuing a bachelor’s in digital communication, both from Liberty University.

Family: Wife, Monica Haynes, and together we have six children, Mirella, Chelsea, Shevelle, Patricia, Melvin Jr. and Stephanie.

Reason for founding MBKGR: I experienced many difficult times attempting to transition from boyhood to manhood. Some of the issues I faced were racism, growing up without my father, dropping out of high school, a drug addiction, incarceration, homelessness and two failed marriages. These issues have shaped me to do this work and allow me to relate to what men are struggling with today.

Mission of MBKGR: To provide a safe place where men can come and share their struggles, be empowered with knowledge and resources, be encouraged through positive fellowship with other men and how to build meaningful relationships with God, family and the community.

Services organization provides: Our organization provides mentoring for males ages 13 and above. We provide instruction in manhood and fatherhood training. These courses provide life skills and practical application of faith. We have a Suits for Success program, in which participants are given instruction on financial literacy, entrepreneurship, job search skills, résumé writing, interview techniques and career and educational counseling. The participants then receive a suit. We also host a biannual awards program titled the “Manny Awards” that highlights unsung heroes from Greater Richmond for the work they do in the community.

We also attempt to meet the needs of our participants’ families by providing: Toy drives during the Christmas season and back to school rallies providing backpacks to students. We are also a resource for men in the community who need clothing, especially business attire.

How one can volunteer:  Contact me by phone at (804) 502-3239 or by email at mbkgrva@gmail.com

How MBKGRVA is funded: Most of the funding comes out of my own pocket, board donations and individual and community donations.

What motivated me to get involved in community service: A passion to help other men overcome the issues they struggle with so that they become better persons, husbands, fathers, community leaders.

How I start the day: I start my day with meditation and prayer beginning at 5:30 a.m. seeking direction for the day.

A perfect day for me is: Fulfilling the call on my life and walking in the purpose for which God created for me and serving others.

Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: I am fascinated by mythology, medieval times and history, as well as enjoying jazz music, theater plays and reading.

A quote that I am inspired by is: “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” — Luke 22:32

Best late-night snack: Jell-O.

Best thing my parents ever taught me: Belief and faith in God.

Person who influenced me the most: There have been many. I would say definitely my mother lifelong, but also my wife and children and my pastor.

The book that influenced me the most: “The Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren.

What I’m reading now: “The Father Wound” by Bishop Darryl F. Husband.

The one thing that I’ve learned in life is: The precious thing in life is relationships.

My next goal: To continue to solidify my legacy by passing on my experiences and knowledge to someone whose passion for men and community mirrors mine so that the spirit of My Brother’s Keeper continues to serve men and their families.