McFarthing brothers take over innovative program started by father
FORT WAYNE—Sports and entertainment can make fine occupations but they aren’t the only goals to which young people can aspire. That’s a message—and legacy—one man and his brother want to pass on to the community through a unique youth program at a local church.
Every Wednesday, at 6 p.m., Otaimond McFarthing sits in the basement of Turner Chapel AME Church at 836 E. Jefferson Blvd., with a group young people building model racecars. McFarthing said he knows it seems like an unusual activity in some circles, particularly in this day and age, but explained it could open the door to imagination and possibilities for lots of young people.
“It’s just helping out kids, teaching them something new,” explained McFarthing. “Everyone wants to teach them sports or music. This is just something outside the box. It’s teaching kids to work with their hands, instead of just playing video games. This is just teaching them they can do anything.”
Those are lessons McFarthing and his brother Paris McFarthing learned early on from their father, the late Bobby McFarthing, who passed away March 3 of this year. In fact, the model car program at Turner Chapel has extra special meaning for Otaimond McFarthing. His father, an engineer with a love for cars and motorcycles, started the project earlier in the year.
A devoted worker in the church and unwavering youth advocate, the elder McFarthing was known to provide guidance for young people in the church. For example, he taught a number of teens at the church the basics of maintenance and paid them out of his own pocket to do janitorial work there. Along similar lines, he started the model car project to expose young people to a different world, particularly when it comes to creating things for oneself.
Rather than buying pre-made cars or even kits to build cars that the youngsters can race, McFarthing said his dad believed in making things for himself and teaching others—like Otaimond and Paris—how to do the same. That’s the idea behind the model car program at Turner.
“You start off with a wood block and you sand it down to make it the shape of a car. You can shape it almost any way you want to,” explained Otaimond McFarthing. “Basically it’s an easy way of engineering or creating something. Instead of going out and buying a car, it feels better when you make it yourself. My dad was an engineer. He built cars, motorcycles, designed wiring. He’d rather build it than buy it.
“That’s why my dad started working with the kids—to give them a more creative outlet,” he said.
After shaping the block of wood into a car, program participants began painting them. The next step is to get the vehicles ready to move.
“We’ll add axles, balance it,” said McFarthing.
That’s one way his brother’s help comes into play. Paris McFarthing is co-owner of a couple Phil’s Hobby Shop locations, including the one southwest at 3938 W. Jefferson Blvd. In addition to being a source for supplies like model paint and car components, the hobby shop has a model car race track on which program participants will get a chance to test their finished cars in competition.
“Then we’re going to race it. I told them whoever beats my car, I’ll get them a candy bar—just a little challenge,” said Otaimond McFarthing.
He said the cars, which were being painted by the young people last week, should be ready to roll soon. Meanwhile, the youth will be learning a number of life lessons, among them, the importance of creativity.
According to McFarthing, too many of today’s young people haven’t been taught how to be creative and, therefore, have to depend too much on others to create a way for them. He said that became evident even in the program when he told participants they could paint their cars any way they wanted.
“All they said was blue, red and black,” he said. “I asked if they wanted more color.”
He taught them they could use different combinations of color and create their own designs, even mix colors to create new ones. The young people started to open up after that.
While the participants are learning, McFarthing said the program also is giving him and his brother a chance to practice some of the lessons their father taught them and, hopefully, encourage other young adults to do the same. Although he’s only 27, McFarthing said his father taught him it’s important to reach back and teach people younger than he is how to do things.
“All kids need some guidance. Not all of them want to look up to people who don’t know what they’re going through,” he said, explaining that it’s important for people his age to work with young people behind them.
“They can all help,” he said. “If they just take two or three kids at time, it would make a difference. As soon as you touch somebody, you just start mentoring from there. Everybody should be able to take five minutes out of the day and talk to a kid and see what’s going on with them. Just ask simple questions, see what’s going on with them. Nowadays, everybody’s self-absorbed.”
And, he said, it shouldn’t be about financial rewards.
“Money isn’t really everything. It comes and goes but what you do for the kids lasts forever. They’ll remember that. It just takes a little bit,” he said.
As for how the young people are responding now that he and his brother have taken over where their father left off, McFarthing said the program is going great—and that the children apparently learned the lessons his dad taught the group in the beginning.
“They’re pretty excited. If you show them once, they know how to do it. They picked up pretty much where they left off. Kids understand. You just have to show them what to do and they take it from there,” he said.
For more information on how to enroll children in the project or to volunteer, call Turner Chapel AME Church at (260) 426-3121. The project is free to participants.
This article originally appeared in our April 24, 2013 issue.