Local man receives national award for bettering community

Hundreds of people gathered in McMillen Park for the 4th annual Amnesty & Deliverance Festival.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A man in Fort Wayne is the recipient of an award given out by a nationally syndicated radio show: The Tom Joyner Morning Show. Joe Ayers received the “Real Fathers Real Men” Award yesterday for a festival he holds every August at McMillen Park. The award, given weekly, goes to men around the country who are positively influencing their communities.

Ayers received the award Tuesday morning after a friend of his who lives in St. Louis recommended him. An excerpt from the letter reads: “Joseph Ayers is doing amazing things in Fort Wayne. For several years, he’s put on Amnesty Festival geared at empowering the Black Community.”

Ayers said he started the festival after he retired because he saw the need. He said he was once a troubled youth and saw an opportunity to reach out children.

“I made some bad choices in my life that I’m not proud of, but I’m not ashamed either,” Ayers said.

Instead of becoming a statistic, he decided to set new standards and show other young men, especially, that there’s a way out of a criminal life. Ayers said his goal with the festival is to inundate people with information and resources to improve their life. Every year, the Amnesty & Deliverance Festival features live music, poetry, vendors, a basketball tournament, free hair cuts, and local food. People can also visit Information booths throughout the festival area which focus on social service agencies, financial institutions, housing, education, legal, employment, health/medical, and crime prevention. In addition to the information booths, the NAACP Women’s chapter gives away school supplies and children can get free identification cards printed by New York Life Insurance. He also holds a “Stop the Violence Rally” every year at the event.

“Our violence is escalating, and I think the impact of being out there where they are will bring changes in somebody’s life,” a community pastor, David Moore, said.

This year, Ayers added two new initiatives to the festival: Next Man Up and Sisters with Standards. One shows young men how to dress professionally and properly tie ties, and the other teaches young girls etiquette.

However, Ayers said the real joy in the award is that it highlights the city on a national level.

“Wow, that was a real great honor to represent Fort Wayne…To show that there are people doing good work,” Ayers said.

Ayers was awarded $1000. He said he’ll use the money to help improve future festivals. Another large part of the festival is the canned food drive they hold for Community Harvest Food Bank and the clothing drive for the Rescue Mission. Ayers said he will also use the award to donate more clothes and suits to men at The Rescue Mission.

The fifth Amnesty & Deliverance Festival will be held August 22, 2015.

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