Since moving to Schenectady at the age of 15, Johan Matthews has made a name for himself as a community leader: He founded Mutual Design, a company that designs strategies for shared social change; and sits on the boards of a handful of organizations including the Schenectady Foundation and Boys Day Out Youth Enrichment Services. But it’s his involvement with Community Fathers that is nearest to his heart.
“Folks would consider me a local leader, I suppose, because of my professional roles,” says Matthews, a father of two. “But personally I think that parenthood is the most significant leadership role I play.”
As of 2022, one in four children were living without a biological, step or adopted father in the home. Those children—18.4 million of them—are more likely to go to prison, abuse drugs and alcohol, become pregnant as a teenager, and drop out of school than children who live with a father. Community Fathers, a homegrown, Schenectady-based, Black-led nonprofit, aims to reduce the number of fatherless children by way of occupational services, cooking classes and support groups for fathers.
“There are a lot of men who are navigating parenthood while embattled by a criminal justice system that doesn’t see them as useful, by a community that has disregarded them, and by a family that has learned to not rely on them,” Matthews says. “Community Fathers exists to heal that divide, to reconnect fathers to their families, and to allow families a sense of wholeness that can only be accomplished once the father’s in the picture.”
Join Johan and the nine other 2023 honorees at our annual Capital Region Gives Back event on December 6 at Putnam Place.