RACINE — Deontrae Mayfield is making a metaphor about “Donkey Kong.”
“You start off right here,” the 41-year-old hoodie-wearing small-business owner says, lowering his left hand down toward the floor.
In the game, the player “has got to scale all the way up to the top on this side,” Mayfield continues, holding his right hand up high. “It’s not a straight shot up. You’ve got to go from this side, to this side, and you’ve got to jump over a couple barrels and then jump at the monkey that’s throwing hammers at you.”
That’s how Mayfield views life. There are barrels, obstacles and enemies. But there’s also a goal at the top, there’s success to be had.
But unlike in Nintendo’s single-player version of “Donkey Kong,” in life there is help. You just need to ask for it.
Mayfield, along with a group of seven other community-minded Racinians, want to be the helpers.
RACINE — In 2013, when Deontrae Mayfield opened his inner-city resale shop called Panhandlers Resale Shop, the store sold all donated items co…
The Main Project
Mayfield owns Project Restoration. Its brick-and-mortar storefront, 2049 Taylor Ave., sells paints, locally made apparel and furniture Mayfield refurbished himself.
But it also has a focus on mission of “enriching and enhancing” the lives of local youths, particularly through jobs that range from snow removal to lawn care to estate sales.
The next mission is called The Main Project.
Here’s how it will work:
- Five Racine families in need with at-risk kids, ages 13-18, will take part. A recruitment event will likely be held in the next few weeks to get the ball rolling, with the five families being identified thereafter. Check out “Project Restoration” on Facebook for more updates. “If there is a family in need, we will get to you,” Mayfield said. “It’s just one family at a time, but we will get to you.”
- The Main Project’s leaders will meet with each family and identify that family’s specific needs: whether they are health-related, schooling, rebuilding a credit score, transportation, what have you.
- A “Vision Board” will be created, unique to each family. It will be a pegboard with achievable aspirations attached that each family needs to achieve to graduate the program.
- The Main Project leaders then will break off and use their “bank of resources” to identify how best to help that family, and then develop a game plan that family can use to get back on their feet and get ahead.
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Projects that focus only on at-risk kids often overlook the problems they may be facing at home, Mayfield said. He was raised by a single mother and spent time in prison after becoming a cocaine dealer.
“If we repair these kids 100%, but then they still have to go to a broken household, then that’s counterproductive,” Mayfield said. “What we came up with is a unique idea, where we’ll work with those kids but we’ll work with it as a family unit — not just the kids.”
Mayfield’s story has a common thread with the other leaders of The Main Project.
“All of us right here have a background that was challenging,” he said.
Rogelio Hernandez, a father of a 7-year-old daughter, spent time behind bars. Erica Garcia is a small-business owner; she runs The Glamm Bar, 242 Main St. Maria Cervantes and Jaszmin Lambert, who is a nurse, are both single mothers.
“We’re all a team. We all work together,” Lambert said. “We bring all that we have, personally, to the table in presenting this program to the youth we want to work with.”
The focus on families with teenagers is intentional.
Growing up, Hernandez said, he didn’t have guidance, and sometimes had the “wrong guidance.” He wants to make sure kids, especially his daughter, get the “opportunities that I didn’t have.”
Close to the minds of The Main Project’s leaders is Racine’s designation in a 24/7 Wall Street report as the second-worst city in the U.S. for black people.
“We don’t want us to become No. 1,” Mayfield said. “We didn’t want to see us become No. 2.”
“Why is Racine No. 2 worst for black families? Because the policies are taking black men out of the household,” he continued. “They’re over prosecuted. They’re over-felonized. They do a lot of different things to take minority men out of the families. Now with immigration, they’re trying to take men out of the household in Mexican families under the name of immigration … You take the man out of the household, that changes the whole dynamic of that family.”(tncms-asset)2a9fed12-b30b-11e9-91d0-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)