KAILUA-KONA — Growing up, Jordan Tobias didn’t have a father around.
“He kind of knew how to take care of kids in a way, because I babysat when they were younger,” said his mother, Sheila Tobias. “So he kind of knew that aspect of it, but not necessarily like how to be a father of children, because that’s kind of hard to teach.”
Now that her son is raising two kids as a single father, she’s immensely proud of the father he’s become. And she believes the West Hawaii Fatherhood Initiative, a program under Family Support Hawaii dedicated to supporting fathers in the community, has played a big part in helping him get there.
“I think it’s a place for him to be relaxed and just take in everything and just be around other fathers that feel the same way with him,” said Sheila Tobias. “So it’s made him more confident, I think, in his abilities.”
Her son, who brought his kids along with his mother to the West Hawaii Fatherhood Initiative’s third annual “Christmas with our Keiki” event on Saturday, agreed with his mother, calling the program a great chance to get together with other dads and share the experience of fatherhood — both the accomplishments as well as the challenges.
“It actually kind of helps when you’re with a group of guys — especially if they’re fathers,” said Jordan Tobias, 32. “You can complain and grumble — and just letting it out so you’re not holding it in and bottling it up.”
His was among dozens of families from throughout the community who came out for Saturday’s event at The Coffee Lounge in Kailua-Kona. Altogether, it brought out more than 175 people, all coming together for an evening of celebrating the holidays with their families.
“It’s about coming together, having food, spending time together and seeing healthy relationships,” said Caleb Milliken, director of the West Hawaii Fatherhood Initiative. “They get to see mamas and papas, and what it looks like to have a healthy event and interaction with their kids.”
The event treated families to a dinner provided by Privateer’s Cove and a screening of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” along with crafts and photos with Santa.
The Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce also contributed 125 toys for the children, Milliken said, and the Hawaii Community Federal Credit Union donated movie tickets to be gifted as well.
For those who came out, it marked an opportunity for families to come out to engage with each other and enjoy one another’s company.
“It’s someplace to take their kids and interact with them,” said Jordan Tobias. “Not like really at the park, where you take them to the park and just kind of like, ‘OK go play,’ or watch them, but you’re not really doing stuff with them.”
Other parents too said they appreciated that events like Saturday’s get dads included in the fun.
“A lot of times the fathers are working throughout the day, so you don’t get to interact with the kid a lot till you get home from work,” said Chuck Peterson, who came to the event with his wife and daughter. “And this is a real good chance to let us participate.”
Peterson said events like these also help strengthen the bond between father and child, saying they can also help motivate fathers to undertake more activities with their families.
And, Jordan Tobias said, with the West Hawaii Fatherhood Initiative — along with the support of his family, neighborhood and other programs in the community — he’s found no shortage of people he can turn to when he needs a hand.
“It’s like this whole community helped me,” he said. “So yeah, I’m doing it by myself, but if I really need help, there’s people there who have helped me.”