ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Fatherhood Initiative — a collaboration between Youth for Christ, Link Youth Mentorship, Bethel Express, and GO — held a conference Saturday with a mission to mentor youth on what they believe is the root cause of violence in the area.

The organizations say the issue is 73 percent of children in the Rochester area having fatherless homes.

At the event, area Christian ministries and churches emphasized their belief that this is the “cause of the crime and violence we see on our streets.”

The organization says there is no substitute for a positive male role model in a child’s life. They add the focus of the conference is to help volunteers take the first step in being a mentor to youth who need encouragement and a positive influence.

Ministry Coordinator for LINK Mentorship Warren Meeks Jr. said this is what men can do to be effective by coming in and being a father-like figure.

“A mentor can be a positive role model in their lives,” Meeks Jr. said. “They could be like a big brother, someone who can be there to give advice to other young men who need someone to pour into their life.”

Executive Director of Rochester Youth for Christ Michael Hennessy understands that this is not an easy ask of the men who volunteer.

“We’re not asking them to do something easy, we’re asking them to do something hard,” Hennessy said. “We believe there is no substitute for a Godly father figure in a young child’s life, and especially a young man.”

Hennessy also recognizes the “superwork” that mother figures put into a man’s life but adds that there are some things that a man needs to learn from his father.

Hennessy says that the feedback from participants is what keeps their initiative going — and volunteers reap the benefits as much as the children.

“From the guys that come and get involved in mentoring, the men tell me ‘I get more out of this than the young man that I’m mentoring,” Hennessy said.

The children appreciate the additional voice they can share things with outside of their immediate family and have seen the results of the program through the children’s successes.

“We’ve seen changes in grades, changes in attitudes, which is very important to us because most of the children that came on board at first, were failing,” Meeks Jr. said. “A lot of them are meeting grade level, as of right now. So those are positive changes in their lives because they have someone to just be there to pour into.”

Anyone interested in becoming a mentor can click the link here to learn more about the program.