Glen Outlaw was sitting in Georgianna United Methodist on Merritt Island listening to Pastor Corky Calhoun tell his flock to influence the future, not complain about it.
Outlaw responded. A father of four boys, he took Calhoun’s plea to heart. He made a strong discovery in talks with fifth graders and developed an amazing idea.
“I recognized after talking to these kids they didn’t have a real intact family and about 80 percent had no dads. ... I’m a dad of four boys and I said what can I do?’’ he recalled. “I said, well, I can teach them how to shake hands and tie a tie. I can do that as a dad.”
He has spent the past five years as a volunteer at Cambridge Elementary, teaching fifth graders how to do just that. Outlaw’s friend taught at Stone Middle School and asked if he could come do the same there.
“Before I knew what I was saying, I said, ‘Yes I can do that.’ Now I have to figure out how to get 450 ties and a group of men to come with me to teach this skill.’’
Keith Schachter, who shared a love of tennis with Outlaw, took Outlaw’s vision from Stone in Melbourne to Jackson Middle School in Titusville to Palm Bay High School. The mentors and the school visits grew — all as part of their group, Tied Together.
“It felt like it would be a home run,’’ Schachter said.
“It has been an incredible story,’’ said Pastor Calhoun. “I don’t think that any of us expected it to take off the way it has, but I think it reflects the hunger that the young men in our community have for men to mentor them and to speak into their lives, and it has been incredible how it has been received.’’
Outlaw said Tied Together now has 250 men from every walk of life.
“They have followed us everywhere,” Outlaw said. “And we only have one thing in common. We want to help these young men out. It’s really just that simple.’’
Outlaw approached Paul Zima, a retired chief master sergeant at Patrick Air Force Base, with the tie idea, giving testimony about how the eclectic group of military, judges, a mayor and more were making a difference by offering guidance to young men.
“It’s definitely growing,’’ Zima said. “It’s a simple concept. The tie is a medium that helps us teach them about good character, about how it is important to weigh decisions at their age because it could affect the rest of your life.’’
Interest has popped up in Orange County and the Miami area, as well.
Tied Together put on 14 programs for about 3,500 young men in the last year. Every school has ties in its own colors. Over the life of the program, they have reached about 11,000 young men in Brevard County.
“It is amazing. We’ll see some kids wearing their tie out in public or they will see us and say, ‘You were at our school,’” Outlaw said. “That’s a beautiful thing.
“It’s just so much fun and these young men are hungry to learn what’s out there. They are all ears. They want to hear what we have to say.’’
Many of the adults are as energized by the program as the kids. Some have come to Outlaw and sought advice on how to set a better example. And he’s launched an extension of his program, for high school seniors to talk to his leaders.
“We will talk about anything,’’ Outlaw said. “We’ll talk about suicide, we’ve talked about divorce, how do you get a job, how do you interview? Whatever is their next step in life, how do I get a credit card? Whatever is on their mind, we are willing to talk about it.
“There is no judging. We are you, OK? Just because we dress nice doesn’t mean we haven’t had problems. Once they know we’re not preaching at them, we’re talking to them, the stories fall in. They are hungry.’’
Outlaw has seen those fifth graders grow up. His group knows they are reaching and impacting young men at a crucial age.
“The communities we live in I think there is a strong need for role models,’’ Pastor Calhoun said. “Something that’s different from what they see on television and in movies, to actually meet real men who are working themselves through the challenges of life and college and jobs, men that are upright and doing the right thing.”
Outlaw is ready to continue and grow the support.
“I have about 4,000 ties sitting in my garage right now for future events at schools,’’ he said.
Tied Together Mission:
To influence young men in their early adult development toward a positive self image and self worth, building confidence to stand tall as an individual.
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