LARGO – The Keep It Real International Mentoring Program provides a safe haven in which to motivate, encourage and prepare young people to become responsible citizens. Founded by Fred Hinton, the program prepares the youth for tomorrow by helping them recognize their full potential and by being a positive influence in the community.
In addition to running the program, Hinton is an international motivational speaker, life coach, author, devoted father and pastor of the Calvary Worship Center Florida and the Calvary Worship Center India.
The program’s efforts are devoted to mentoring boys between the ages of 5 and 13 and girls between the ages 5 and 18. Hinton’s approach to the program and the youths is both refreshing and compelling.
“We approach this program with a life coach standpoint. Like microwave popcorn, they [the children] need the right conditions for things to work,” he said.
Hinton has always been a passionate and determined individual with a desire to help others better their lives. At the age of 18, his close friend was killed and he coordinated different speakers to come to the school and speak in memory of his friend.
This was a major turning point in Hinton’s life. He began to see the African-American community through changed eyes. However, the driving catalyst behind the founding of the program came from a combination of working in the bail bonds business for 12 years, which is, according to Hinton, “a revolving door,” of young black men in and out of the system, and the publication of his book “Improve Your Child’s Behavior in Thirty Days.”
“What is going on in the African-American community is that we are losing them [the boys] between these ages and they lose focus and they lose their dream. We reignite the fire so that they can learn more and better themselves. It is critical…they see the results of what poor choices can get you,” he said.
Located at 7500 Ulmerton Road, Unit 47 in Largo, the program got its beginnings in 2013. The word “Real” in Keep It Real is an acronym for the philosophy of the program and its methods towards mentoring the youth who participate in it. The letter “R” stands for recognizing who you are; “E” for equipping them with the skills to handle life and its ups and downs; “A” for aim, which incites the youths to set goals for themselves and finally “L” for love, family and community.
The program is very hands on, working as a whole on precepts of prevention and redirection to help get the kids back on track.
“Everything that we do is open to the community; everything that we do in this program is based on loving. It’s not about what religion you are,” he averred.
Hinton is tenacious; he leaves no stone unturned in an effort to better their lives. The focus is on breaking bad habits and developing healthy decision making skills; anything that takes from their lives has to go. He brings police officers in to speak with the children on current issues that are ongoing within the community. This creates an open and safe forum in which the children can air their concerns.
He even writes to the children’s teachers asking them what things they need to work on from behavior issues to studying skills. Hinton also tries his best to get parents involved in their children’s lives, sometimes having time set aside for family mentoring and intervention on an individual basis.
The organization, which is charity based, operates solely on the proceeds from the Keep It Real thrift store, located in Unit 21, next to the program’s headquarters in Unit 47. The program thrives based on donations. It is ran as a volunteer organization and the thrift store provides employment opportunities for people that need a second chance such as ex-convicts who have trouble finding work elsewhere.
So what is Hinton’s hope for the program in the New Year?
He plans to implement courses on learning self-respect, anti-bullying and self-defense. He wants to focus on developing resources to continue to help the children after they leave the program, and is looking for more volunteers.
“I believe in what the program stands for, and I believe in these kids,” Hinton stated. “I don’t ask anyone to do anything that I haven’t already done. We talk about the fact that if a man can’t learn how to take orders, he won’t amount to much. We find something positive in anything.”
Due to reorganizing the store, the program will reopen again after the first of the year. If you would like to make a cash donation, furniture or other items, please contact Fred Hinton at (727) 214-4509.