A Good Man Is Hard to Find

Mentoring programs complain about the lack of adult males. So one took a chance on Marc Plaskie.

They join more than a dozen relatives for the party at Chuck E. Cheese's, where Anne gets to talk more with Angelina, getting to know her on a deeper level. "You start really seeing the people, not just Œthese are kids who need help,'" Anne says. "This is a family that needs love, support, friendship." That day, Marc and Anne decide to bring Tony into the fold, too, even though he isn't a part of the DAYS program.

Marc and Anne begin alternating weekends: Tony and Crystal on outings to Nuggets games and "older cousin" activities, Michael and Juliana together on a different day. Anne describes this as "a new chapter."

"We've gotten so much from those kids," she says. "It really puts things into perspective. What is important? What is important to us? Our whole lives, the struggles that we've been through. We have a purpose now. I don't know what long-run difference we'll make in these kids' lives, but we've done something right: We've now got four instead of two."

Marc Plaskie's resumé includes years in jail -- and a 
year as a successful mentor to Juliana and her 
Anthony Camera
Marc Plaskie's resumé includes years in jail -- and a year as a successful mentor to Juliana and her cousin.

In mid-December, DAYS hosts a dinner for all past and present mentors at the Aquarium restaurant. Although they still have one month to go to hit the one-year mark as mentors, Meyerhoffer tells Marc and Anne that he's nominated them for the federal government's Outstanding Mentor Award.

"I think that this experience has not only changed the lives of the kids that they deal with, but really impacted Marc and Anne's life," Meyerhoffer says. "As people, as a couple, as community members, they have really grown into more than I even expected."

In the last three months of 2005, Meyerhoffer has signed up twenty new mentors -- only five of whom are male. Still, that's a tremendous improvement over the previous three months, when he added only five mentors total. The program's three-year-grant will run out in October 2006. Meyerhoffer would like to see the mentoring continue, but it will depend on alternative funding sources. In the meantime, he's doing everything he can. "I have family after family beating down my door," he says. "I have fifteen kids to match to in the next month."

Over Christmas, Marc and Anne return to Chicago. On Christmas morning, they serve food at the Salvation Army shelter where Marc lived for eight months after being released from prison. They go by the townhome where Marc grew up and run into one of his old neighbors. The woman is shocked that Marc is not only alive, but in college with a job and a wife. She remembers hearing the drag-down fights at Marc's home when he was a child, says that the neighbors just didn't know what they could do to help.

This is the first time someone has acknowledged his shitty upbringing, Mark realizes. It was real; he didn't just imagine it. They continue to tour Marc's old neighborhood, where every street corner and storefront dredges up a memory. He and Anne are making their way from the past to the future, step by step. And they hope to bring Michael and Juliana and Tony and Crystal along.

"You can't know everything that's going to happen because of what you're doing," Anne says. "You can't honestly know what you're affecting. Because we're just two people, and you wouldn't think two people with our histories could make a difference or understand that they could make a difference. We do."

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