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Two fathers mission to supply Christmas gifts for children in need in Houston

HOUSTON – Two fathers in Houston are on a mission to give back to children in need this holiday season, while also creating a space for fathers to exchange ideas on how to be a better dad.

“We’re always talking about how do we give back to our community. How do we give back specifically to inner-city kids,” said Arvy Lim, co-founder of Cool Dad

Lim and Kevin Barnett are the two fathers who created Cool Dad, an organization with the goal of helping dads rethink perceptions of fatherhood. Their focus zeroes in on untying stereotypical strings attached to men of color.

“I realized there was not a lot of information for men to prepare them for the next chapter in life,” Barnett said, referring to when his daughter was born.

He scoured the internet but couldn’t find answers to his many questions.

Barnett and Lim are friends and often would converse about their experiences as fathers. Over time, their conversations evolved to include discussion about how to create a space for more dads to talk.

Cool Dad” became their answer and after the start of the pandemic, they took flight.

Roughly, 20 local fathers make up their inaugural group, dads from throughout the Houston area who share stories of fatherhood.

“We’re creating a safe space for you to be vulnerable. For you to release information about yourself in a nonjudgmental environment so that we can all learn from one another’s experience,” said Barnett, father to a 3-year-old daughter.

“It’s been super organic,” added Lim, father to a 12-year-old girl and a 5-year-old-boy. “I have the best of two worlds.”

Barnett and Lim plan to grow Cool Dad to include community centers throughout the Houston area.  They also plan to provide area fathers with vocational, G.E.D. and other training programs aimed at making fatherhood better for more dads.

By sharing stories, Barnett and Lim also aim to challenge constructs of masculinity as brothers keeping for one another.

“We’re on this same path but we’re just holding each other accountable, holding each other’s hands saying hey, let’s do this together,” Lim said.

Cool Dad’s first project aims to make the holidays better for youth in Houston.

The organization has spearheaded a program called, ‘Color Box,’ a drop box for clothes, electronics, toys and other gifts to be given to children through the Boys and Girls Club Greater Houston’s, Crosby Street location.

Four locally owned small businesses are participating by including a Color Box gift drop box for customers to leave donations:

- Premium Goods (Rive Village)

- Tenfold Coffee (Houston Heights)

- Forth & Nomad (Houston Heights)

- The Argyle League Barbershop (Montrose)

Carlos Carrillo, owner of the Argyle League Barbershop, said participating in the Color Box initiative does more than give back to the community. It also sends a message about the joy of fatherhood, something close to his heart.

“Around the holidays if you’re alone and you don’t have much you need someone to come through,” Carrillo said. “Being a father, I’m a nurturer. I love my children and I really just want to be there for everyone.”