Sep 21, 2012 - By Anne McGowan, Staff WriterFathers in the Field is a non-denominational Christian organization that pairs fatherless boys with mentors.
Five years ago, Lander man John Smithbaker made a change in his life that affected not just himself butscores of others: He founded Fathers in the Field, a non-denominational Christian organization that pairs fatherless boys with mentor fathers.
Smithbaker, CEO of Riverton-based Brunton Outdoor Group, recently made another change: He resigned from his job to work full time with Fathers in the Field. His resignation is effective in December.
"It's where my heart is," Smithbaker, 48, said of the organization.
Fathers in the Field teams up boys aged 7 to 17 with Christian men who commit to meeting with their "field buddy" at least four times a month; twice for church, once for service projects for widows and once for outdoor activities like camping, hunting and sports. Mentor fathers are screened before acceptance.
The program benefits boys by providing a father figure, but the children's mothers and widows reap rewards too.
"I honestly believe it's our No. 1 societal issue --the breakup of the family and what it does to boys and girls. It's not just boys," he said. "I feel blessed to be in a position to push back against the tide. We're a voice in the wilderness, if you will, for these fatherless boys."
Fathers in the Field is now in 26 states. A missionary was hired in August in Mississippi to cover the Southeastern United States, and co-founder Scott McNaughton, the former pastor of Covenant Presbyterian Church in Lander, has been a full-time employee since 2008.
Smithbaker said the idea for the nonprofit organization grew out of his own experience. His father left his mother when she was pregnant with him and when his sister was just 3.
Smithbaker said he felt that loss his entire life and compensated by being a perfectionist. When he was 40, he became a Christian, forgave his father and recognized that he was "made for a purpose."
His decision to leave Brunton, he said, was a hard one.
"I felt I needed to do work where my heart and focus wanted to be," he said.
Smithbaker has worked at Brunton since 1997, leaving for a time to run another business based in Lander. He returned several years ago.
Smithbaker said he committed to three years in the "second go-round" with Brunton and feels confident in the work he's done to get the company in a place where it can continue to prosper.
"It's just the right time," he said about the move to the nonprofit. "It's just growing."
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