By Lex McMillan
The Rev. David Dunn recently completed his last term as chair of the Adams Rescue Mission Board. Now 83, he has been involved with ARM since his arrival in Gettysburg in 1976 and has served multiple terms for a total of 18 years on its Board. He looks back on those years with wonder and deep gratitude.
At age 36, the native of Gardiner, Maine, was selected as pastor of Gettysburg’s First Baptist Church. When he arrived with his beloved wife Carolyn, whom he had married in 1963, and three young daughters, he never expected he’d be here some 47 years later. He continued as the Baptist church’s pastor for 24 years, retiring in 2000. He then served as a part-time associate at the Baptist Church in Spring Grove for another 17 years. There he learned of Celebrate Recovery, a biblically based program of sustainable healing for those who have developed self-defeating habits that cause pain to themselves and others (https://www.celebraterecovery.com). His involvement in Celebrate Recovery, which is now offered to ARM residents, deepened his feeling for those who are most in need of the mission’s ministries.
From the time of his arrival, Dunn was excited about the work of the Mission, which he calls a “beautiful ministry.” While still living in Maine, he recalled having listened to and been moved by a national radio program about rescue missions. He was not aware of such missions in his area, so he was delighted when he discovered the young organization just getting off the ground in Gettysburg and his own church deeply committed to the work.
Through the years, Dunn has played a key role in the growth and development of ARM. When he arrived, the Mission was a “fledgling organization” with no permanent home. A member of his church was on the ARM staff and another member, Fred Neal, an executive with Inland Container, was a founder and tireless advocate for the Mission since 1972. Neal always said the rescue mission was not his vision but the Lord’s; he simply listened and worked hard to persuade others in the community to support that vision. Dunn remembers Neal with gratitude as one “who had a passion for those in need.”
He recalls with pleasure in 1983 having interviewed Bruce Dietrick, ARM’s long-time Executive Director, when Dietrick applied to serve as Director of Men’s Ministries. Dietrick married a local woman. They became active members of Dunn’s church, and he baptized all three of their children. In the early years of their marriage, they lived in a small apartment in the York Road building alongside the homeless men whom they served.
Although the Rescue Mission has always had challenges—mostly financial but also involving personnel—Dunn speaks with gratitude of how the community has always come through. That broad community support is evident in ARM regularly being among those to receive the largest number of gifts in the annual Giving Sprees. His pride in the Mission is evident, but he quickly reminds me that it has been a team effort.
The purchase in 1977 of the old Armistead 5&10 store on York Road as a shelter for homeless men and space for the growing Thrift Store was a bold move for the young organization, but support from the community, including a grant from the Musselman Foundation, made it possible. He recalls another leap of faith when the ARM Board approved a $600,000 addition to the York Road facility to expand its recycling capacity, which had begun in a loaned warehouse on Race Horse Alley. The debt was quickly retired by generous community support, and the recycling service continues to be a cornerstone of the ARM mission. At one time, he recalled, ARM had the largest nonprofit recycling service in the state.
The Thrift Store, also located in the York Road building, is a continuing cornerstone for ARM. It provides affordable clothing, home furnishings, tools, toys, and a variety of other items to low-income and bargain-seeking shoppers in our community. It also provides a substantial measure of ARM’s annual revenue.
In 1988, ARM took another leap of faith in opening a shelter for women and children in a rented house on East Stevens Street. Just six years later, again with community support, the ARM Board took an even greater leap of faith by purchasing a three-story building with six apartments and a separate house on Chambersburg Street. Completely renovated and expanded, it is now The Agape House with ten apartments, the home of ARM’s Family Ministries.
From early in his ministry, Dunn has felt called to serve the poor and to reach out beyond his own congregation. He describes his faith as “not just prayer, but action.” He recalls growing up poor on a farm in Maine. They were never hungry, but he and his four siblings almost always wore donated, hand-me-down clothing from their church. When he was 12, he recalls getting a part-time job feeding a neighbor’s chickens. With his first pay, he bought himself his first pair of new pants.
He credits his volunteer work with the Rescue Mission for having grown his faith. As he got to know those who came to ARM seeking shelter and guidance, he says “my heart tells me that could have been me except for the grace of God.” He has seen God’s unconditional love alive and healing at the Mission.
Following our interview, he wrote me the following: “Remember, I’ve got a good heritage, but it’s not about me so much as it is about Him, and how He can use the least, the lonely, and the lost.”
Dunn’s humble gratitude is evident, but all those who have served ARM and been served by it owe him a great debt. Thank you, David Dunn!
The Adams Rescue Mission exists to proclaim the passion of Jesus toward the hungry, homeless, abused, and addicted; to accelerate recovery and restoration to the least, last, lonely, and lost. Lex McMillan is a board member of ARM.
To support the Mission: http://www.adamsrescuemission.org/donate-now.