Men aid youths in trouble

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Watching from a back row of the courtroom, Willie Battle saw something in the gangly teenager charged with skipping school and standing lookout while two friends broke into a house to steal pistols:

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Willie Battle is the president and founder of Men Making a Difference.  Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
Willie Battle is the president and founder of Men Making a Difference.

Hope.

Unlike the swaggering, mumbling defendants who show up for Richmond County Juvenile Court wearing untucked T-shirts and oversized, sagging jeans, Martin Holmes wore slacks and a collared, button-up dress shirt. He made eye contact with Judge Herbert Kernaghan and spoke up when answering questions.

Mr. Battle, the president and founder of Men Making a Difference, thought Martin could use a mentor.

"From looking at him in court and watching his attitude, I felt as if we could reach him," Mr. Battle said. "You could tell there was some good in him."

Men Making a Difference has been quietly working in juvenile court for the past three years. Judge Bill Sams said Mr. Battle and another volunteer sit in on hearings, then interview defendants to see whether they want to change their lives. If so, they introduce them to a mentor.

The group's 28 volunteers - all black men, mostly Fort Gordon soldiers and retirees - are currently mentoring 13 boys. The men are paired with juveniles charged with theft, burglary, criminal trespass and drug use, among other things, Judge Sams said.

Mr. Battle retired from Fort Gordon in 1990 as a chief warrant officer 4. The idea for Men Making a Difference hit him in 1996 while having lunch with some Army buddies, he said. They all agreed they were tired of seeing teenagers wreck their lives through crime, and they decided to do something about it.

He's since discovered the problem isn't so much the children as the children's environments.

"A lot of these kids are living the life that they've been taught," Mr. Battle said. "They're accustomed to this environment. They're accustomed to this lifestyle."

The mentors operate similar to Alcoholics Anonymous sponsors - constantly checking up on their "mentees," taking them to restaurants for chats, meeting with them at home and grilling them about the choices they're making.

Martin, now 16 and a sophomore at Hephzibah High School, meets with volunteer Herbert Williams once a week. Martin said he's learned to stay away from people "who aren't going anywhere," and he plans to join the Army after high school.

"He showed me how to work for what I want, and to be myself," Martin said of his mentor. "I don't have to show out, and I don't have to impress nobody."

With the courts strapped for money to experiment with innovative programs, Mr. Battle's group has been practical because it doesn't cost taxpayers anything, Judge Sams said.

"We can only save them one at a time, and we can't save them all," the judge said. "If we send Men Making a Difference a hundred kids, and they're able to help three of them, that's still success."

Reach Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225 or johnny.edwards@augustachronicle.com.

WILLIE J. BATTLE

Age: 69

Family: Wife, Susie; adopted son, Lucious Mortin, Washington, D.C.

Background: Retired from the Army in 1990 as a chief warrant officer 4.

Title: President and founder of Men Making a Difference, a nonprofit mentoring program for at-risk youth.

Quote: "Christ didn't force us to follow him. He gave us a choice. We're giving these kids a choice."

WANT TO HELP?

Men Making a Difference wants a more diverse group of volunteers. None of its volunteers are white or female, so the mentors are at a disadvantage with whites or Hispanics, and they don't work with girls at all, Mr. Battle said.

He's seeking more volunteers, especially white and Hispanic men and women of all races.

Applicants must pass a criminal background check and get certified through a five-hour training program at the Youth Challenge Academy at Fort Gordon. To inquire, call Mr. Battle at (706) 231-2007 or (706) 592-2280.

INTERESTED IN "MAKING A DIFFERENCE"?

Men Making a Difference wants a more diverse group of volunteers. None of its volunteers are white or female. So the mentors are at a disadvantage with whites or Hispanics, and they don't work with girls at all, president Willie J. Battle said.

He's seeking more volunteers, especially white and Hispanic men and women of all races.

To inquire, call Mr. Battle at (706) 231-2007 or (706) 592-2280

Applicants must pass a criminal background check and get certified through a five-hour training program at the Youth Challenge Academy at Fort Gordon.

Comments (13) Add comment
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juantez
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juantez 03/19/07 - 05:59 am
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Am a retired Army vet working
Unpublished

Am a retired Army vet working overseas and I will be adding my name to the list of volunteers to help this program out, on my return at the end of the year. This is a good program and a way for me to do my part. Thanks, Mr Battle for doing your part.

butterflygina
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butterflygina 03/19/07 - 08:57 am
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With the lack of money for

With the lack of money for programs, volunteers are just what these kids need. And I think it's important for those who participate to know these people are giving up their time to benefit them. I wish this group were in the middle schools

AugResident1
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AugResident1 03/19/07 - 09:03 am
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This city needs more men like

This city needs more men like these willing to commit themselves and their time to helping young men. Good luck to all of you! I'm positive all of you will make a difference.

user3
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user3 03/19/07 - 10:39 am
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this story brought tears to

this story brought tears to my eyes. we should have a program like this for young ladies too. more and more of them are starting to get into trouble and go down an unchanging path. kudos to mr. battle keep up the good work.

Curious1
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Curious1 03/19/07 - 11:22 am
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Wow this is great I am

Wow this is great I am planning on moving back to Georgia in the near future...Currently my husband retired in Virginia but Augusta is my home....I would be delight in joining something life changing for the youth especially our young females....Keep Up The Good Work !!!!!!!!!

Topspin357
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Topspin357 03/19/07 - 11:24 am
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I am glad to see a news

I am glad to see a news article about Mr. Battle. I know Mr. Battle, and am familiar with his program. He comes to Juvenile Court, listens to the cases as they unfold in court, and hears the witnesses, victims and family members as they talk about what these kids have done, where they are heading, etc... This is where he meets many of the kids he works with. He is very dedicated to this organization's goals. I thank him for his efforts.

KingJames
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KingJames 03/19/07 - 12:27 pm
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This is a very nice change

This is a very nice change for the city of Augusta. What a difference a few good people can make!

keepinitreal
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keepinitreal 03/19/07 - 12:41 pm
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Big Ups to you Mr. Battle and

Big Ups to you Mr. Battle and others of your organization. If my son had not gone to Job Corps., I most definitely would have had to look you up. He is similar in description to the young man in the article except he did not get into any kinda trouble but , he wasn't really trying to get a job or continue his education. Thankfully after going to night school and summer school as well, he graduated. His problem was hanging out with his buddy's and gettin high and drinking and not coming home until late morning hours. I told him with the potential that he has, he can and should be putting it to use for preparing for his future. I never let up off of him because I know my son and I know what his capabilites are. He's excellent with computer skills and knowledge of them,+good at cookin. He's a mild mannered young man with a soft heart and easily influenced. I kept on giving him positive, constructive attitude. If Mr. Battle's program is similar to Job Corps.,then it is a wonderful thing because it teaches: discipline, respect and how to be a responsible indiviual and good job trainning skills. Mr Battle may be one of those angels we here about that are down here on earth in the flesh

Delirious58
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Delirious58 03/19/07 - 12:45 pm
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God bless Mr. Battle and

God bless Mr. Battle and all involved with the program.
This is definitely needed for all troubled youths in our area.

mrsunlimited
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mrsunlimited 03/19/07 - 12:53 pm
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Glad we are finally getting

Glad we are finally getting more men involved in young men's lives. Mocha Sisters Organization is a new national organization to the Augusta area that primarily deals with mentoring girls, but we are willing to partner with men organizations to provide assistance with young men as well. So please feel free to contact us at anytime at info@augustamochasisters.com.

aboveaverage
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aboveaverage 03/19/07 - 02:09 pm
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Thank-you for your

Thank-you for your willingness to serve young men in our community! I will pray for your success and the success of those that you mentor.

daemon99
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daemon99 03/19/07 - 10:56 pm
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God bless you, Mr. Battle,

God bless you, Mr. Battle, and the volunteers in this program.

georgiasal
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georgiasal 03/20/07 - 12:24 pm
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May God bless you Mr. Battle

May God bless you Mr. Battle and all of the other mentors in this program and all other programs like this. Also it was nice to read ALL postive comments to this article.

bj865
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bj865 03/20/07 - 07:10 pm
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I was one of the ones that he

I was one of the ones that he helped out in a bad situation. So, thanks to Mr. Battles he help me get my life back. Thanks to Mr. Battles an the rest of the volunteers thank you very much.

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