Family Foundation Fund
FATHERS IMPART DESTINY
NASHVILLE SINCE BIRTH (ISAAC), 1977 (WAYNE), 1993 (MARK)
Family Foundation Fund Founder Onnie Kirk saw a need in his local community. He noticed that many Nashville children were growing up in fatherless homes. Not only did he take a few local children into his work to mentor them and lead by example, he created the foundation, to amplify the positive effects across the city.
“The Family Foundation Fund started in 1993,” his son Isaac Kirk shares. “My dad was just observing the culture, and he saw that there were lots and lots of broken homes, and he wanted to do something about that. He was like, ‘Okay, well I’ll bring a couple kids to work with me.’ The difference that happened in those kids lives, just being mentored, was very, very heavy, and so he couldn’t just make this a one-off,” he explains. Onnie sat down with friends to see what might work in the community. “I would like to just show them what a Christ-centered manhood looks like in the business world and in the family life,” Isaac recalls of his father’s initial mission.
The program intakes boys between ages 10 and 12, and provides mentorship and stability through 18, when the teens officially graduate from the program. The fund pays for their tuition to private Christian schools, teaches them about finances and sets up savings accounts and investment funds with the boys, and pairs them with surrogate fathers that become an integral part of each boy’s life.
“Fatherlessness, whether a father’s in the home or simply doesn’t understand what it means to be a father and a husband is an absolutely key issue in our culture and our country,” surrogate father Mark Peterson says. “You look at all the cultural issues we’re facing, and fathers are absent, and it’s where fathers are present and understand their role you see change and you see people growing up to be securer, confident individuals with goals. The chances of success are far greater than kids growing up without fathers.”
For both the surrogate son and father, it creates a lasting bond. “I don’t think you can be involved in a young person’s life and at 18 just cut it off,” Mark says. “There’s going to be a future, that they really become part of your family.”
For some, that bond and that impact is deeply evident. “One of our alumni from the class of 2006, his surrogate father is a big construction guy in the city,” Isaac says. “He said, ‘I want to major in construction law,’ and he just graduated from law school. He’s doing an internship in Cincinnati, but he’s going to come back and they’re going to go into business together. When you see something like that, you’re just like, okay, it’s not a waste of our time.”
“That was my dad’s underlying hope,” he continues, “to pour into these guys so that they could go back to their communities and hopefully do the same thing.”