FORSYTH COUNTY — A Forsyth County man has been playing the role of father to numerous children, and not for lack of his own family.
Adam Rodes and wife Whitney currently have six kids. Three biological, three foster. And a full home does not stop him from volunteering at Bald Ridge Lodge whenever he can. In fact, he uses all aspects of his life to the benefit of those in need of a parental figure.
“A lot of times at the Lodge, it’s a house but not a home,” Rodes said. “So a lot of what we do is help them feel like they have a home. Let them interact with our family. Bring them to the house and just hang out with my kids.”
Bald Ridge is a nonprofit that provides a safe haven for boys ages 12-18 who are in the custody of the Department of Family and Children Services or referred by Juvenile Court.
The goal of the organization is to reunify boys with their families, providing counseling and mentoring in a safe, therapeutic environment in the meantime.
Part of that is interacting with people outside of the Lodge.
“We’ll call [the Lodge] and ask if there’s anyone who needs an outing. Maybe their stress limit is to the point where they need to get away … and unwind from trying to be cool around 14 other boys all at the same time,” he said.
Rodes and his wife began volunteering about two years ago and have handled foster care for about a year. Since then, they have fostered six children and have met at least 15 boys through the Lodge.
“It’s good to know that you’re helping folks out. We have three kids so we know the need, and we have the heart for helping children,” Rodes said.
“[It’s] taking kids from a situation where a lot of the time they feel hopeless and they … are very confused and uncertain about their future, and it gives them some stability and structure. And maybe even some discipline and love.
“A lot of these kids don’t know what it’s like to have a parent just give them a hug.”
Sometimes, they’ll connect with a child and hang out with him several times. Other times, they’ll take a group to watch a baseball game or to get ice cream or to explore the Cumming Fair.
“To see a kid who’s in the Lodge for Christmas, obviously he gets presents from them,” he said, “but to take him to my wife’s family’s Christmas and sit around the tree and pass out presents with the other kids and grandparents. And for them to get him a gift and to feel included. And to know this is how a family is supposed to be. To show them you can break the cycle.”
Mother’s day is often touted more than Father’s Day, and Rodes was not shy to praise his partner.
“My wife is a saint,” he said.
But the role of a father is just as important in the development of a well-rounded person.
“So many of the boys who are in the system either have no father or have a very disturbed view of what a father figure is,” he said. “And [it’s important] to help them and to talk to them and listen to them, as opposed to yelling at them and just making them raise their younger siblings.”
In being a father figure, Rodes knows that means more than simply doling out hugs.
“One day, I got a guy and made him help me mulch part of my yard. He grumbled about it, but then he went swimming and hung out with my 16-year-old and played video games,” he said.
“Having a work ethic and seeing it through is important when raising a man, too. You don’t just make them feel good because they’re in a bad situation. Teach them how to grow.”
Barbara Kastner, program director of Bald Ridge, said Rodes “represents exactly what our belief is in a male role model. Plus he makes it fun.”
“And how he treats his wife,” said Heidi Snarey, executive director at the Lodge. “They have a partnership. They work together, and they come together as a united front.”
From working on home projects to learning how to cook during his annual run in the Que’n in Cumming barbeque contest, Rodes serves as a father to those who need someone to look up to, and he is never forced into it or resentful.
“If you saw him in public with any of our kids,” Snarey said, “you wouldn’t know which kid is his biologically or who is not.”