While pastoring in the center city of Dayton, Ohio, John was frustrated at the ability of his congregation to act on fundamental problems of poor schools, run-down housing, lack of jobs, and crime. That frustration led him to work with other clergy to start a congregation-based community organization that came to be known as LEAD. When the time came in 1990 for LEAD to hire a Lead Organizer, the new organization turned to John. From 1990 to 2013, John served as the Lead Organizer for two groups: LEAD (Dayton) and BREAD (Columbus). Both organizations successfully tackled a broad range of community problems from payday lending to affordable housing, and demonstrated how large numbers of organized people could get public officials to focus on solving serious community problems rather than simply attending to the narrow interests of those with lots of money.
When John Calkins, one of the founders of the DART Center, retired in 2013, the DART Board hired John Aeschbury to become DART’s second Executive Director. In taking on this responsibility, John stated his commitment to build on the legacy of all of those who brought DART to this point, and work as hard as possible to pass along that legacy to another generation of clergy, lay leaders and organizers. From John’s point of view, DART is uniquely positioned to help people of faith re-claim the biblical mandate to ‘do justice’.