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CEO Joe Jones Selected as CNN Hero of the Week
CEO Joe Jones was selected as this week's CNN Hero. With the help of CNN's Diane Beasley, Joe Jones explains what CFUF is doing to help fathers become better parents.

[Excerpt from CNN] Baltimore (CNN) -- Marcus Dixon refers to the tattoos on his face as the "art of war": an eye etched on his forehead, five stars down the left side of his face, and the words "don't cry" on his eyelids.

The tattoos are permanent reminders of his past life as a drug dealer.

Dixon got the tattoos, he said, to send a message to his enemies and the police to leave him alone.

"I had to create a character that no one would dare challenge," he said.












(Photo credit: Diane Beasley/CNN)

But Dixon's mother and his best friend feared for his safety. They staged an intervention and convinced him to make a fresh start.

Dixon stopped selling drugs and moved to Atlanta. But with a criminal record and no connections, he had a difficult time finding a job. After a few months, he moved back to Baltimore, dejected.

"I was at the lowest of my lows," he said.

He also wasn't in contact with his two sons, which troubled him since his own father hadn't been involved in his life.

"I was confused, lost, and didn't have the slightest idea of how to be a good father," said Dixon, now 30. "I didn't have examples that could guide me."

Dixon's outlook began to change, however, when he followed his mother's advice and went to the Center for Urban Families in Baltimore. There, he's gotten job training, life skills and support that have made him much more optimistic about his future.

Since 1999, the center has helped thousands of Baltimore residents find jobs and enabled hundreds of fathers to become more responsible parents.

"What we want to do is get these people above ground and back into the mainstream," said Joe Jones, the nonprofit's founder and CEO. "We help them get them jobs so they can pay taxes and child support."

Most men, like Dixon, walk through the center's doors because they need help finding a job.

But Jones believes that jobs are just the first step. For him, the key to creating real change in Baltimore's troubled communities is ending what he calls "the cycle of father absence."

"If we don't crack the code of men having babies for whom they're not responsible for, all of our efforts to build a better Baltimore will be limited," said Jones, 57.

Read more of this story here »
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