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WINSTON-SALEM, (WGHP) — With a little coffee, food, and conversation, a group of men in Winston-Salem is working to break down racial, age and socioeconomic barriers to create lifelong relationships instead. 

Former Black Panther, investment advisor, and adjunct college professor are just some of the titles that make up this group of men who call themselves the New Canaan society. They’re preachers, authors, and school bus drivers.

The New Canaan society is a national group focused on speaking truth, righting wrongs and following Christ. The Winston-Salem chapter was started 18 years ago by Jay Helvey.

“It’s about relationship, it’s about friendship. And the importance of friendship, that was Jesus’ model,” Helvey said.

The one thing that brought these men from different backgrounds together is their faith. Through their shared beliefs and conversation, they believe they can break down the barriers that divide them.

Every week, for the last 5 years, they’ve gathered for breakfast at Forsyth Seafood in Winston-Salem. Conversations about life, Christ and racism in America have been shared over many cups of coffee.

“I think what New Caanan society does is allow us to have an opportunity to go face to face with the relational challenges. This is a non-threatening environment. We say what we feel and we are open to other folks’ perspectives,” said Bill McClain, one of the group’s members.

The conversations aren’t always easy, but being open to new perspectives has led to new life lessons and otherwise unlikely friendships.

“I think that’s true for a lot of people. They may not have met if not for NCS and because of NCS they feel a desire to get to know each other more. And not just during the time that we’re together during a meeting, but picking up the phone or bumping into each other intentionally for lunch or otherwise is much more commonplace,” said Allan Younger, another member.

Here, it doesn’t matter where you work, your income, age or race. All you need is a listening ear and an open heart.

“We do realize that the more we open up and the more we allow other people to open up, the more we get to what the truth really is,” McClain said.

The New Canaan society meets every Thursday at 7 a.m. at Forsyth seafood in Winston-Salem. Coffee and a light breakfast are usually provided. The meetings are open to men of all ages. If you can’t make it in person, they also stream them live on zoom.