Our board of directors
Pastor Dollison’s commitment to social justice, community engagement, and spiritual leadership is further demonstrated by his past and current service in numerous positions:
• Chairman, Pastoral Development Conference for the Progressive Missionary & Educational (PM&E) Baptist State Convention of Florida, Inc.
• Past President/current Vice President, NAACP-Winter Haven Branch
• Senior Chaplin, Winter Haven Police Department
• Past President, Interdenominational Ministerial Association of Polk County, Inc.
• President, Interfaith Ministerial Alliance of Winter Haven
• Past 2nd Vice Moderator, First South Florida (FSF) Missionary Baptist District Association
• FSF Congress Number Three — President/past Educational Dean
Pastor Dollison is a native Hoosier from Indiana, graduating from Indiana State University and Central Baptist Theological Seminary, and is a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. He has shared the past 37 years of his life with his lovely wife, Valerie Bush Dollison, a native of Bartow, Florida and they have three adult children.
After forty years in pastoral ministry, he retired at the end of 2012, having served as pastor in North Carolina, campus pastor at Clemson University in South Carolina, and as pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Lexington, Kentucky for twenty-five years.
He has been involved in community organizing in Lexington since 2001 with the founding of BUILD (Building a United Interfaith Lexington through Direct Action.) He has been a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Community Organizing Advisory Team and has co-chaired the Indiana-Kentucky Synod Community Organizing Team. In addition to his community organizing training through DART, he has received training through the Gamaliel Foundation and National People’s Action.
He is a certificated instructor in Kenpo karate and holds a fourth degree black belt. He and his wife, Pacita, a retired public school teacher, have four grown children and six grandchildren.
In 2000, while pastor of St. Clare, he worked with 15 other clergy to found the FAITH (Fighting Against Injustice Towards Harmony) organization, a DART affiliated group, and became its first co-chair.
After a move to Haines City, FL in 2003, he again worked with his parish to covenant with PEACE in Polk County, another DART affiliate organization.
Fr. Chris is currently pastor of Our Lady of Hope Catholic Church in Port Orange, FL, which is a member of FAITH in Volusia County. FAITH and nine other DART organizations in Florida are currently working to reduce youth arrests by having law enforcement issue civil citations (an alternative to arrests).
In 1982 he was commissioned Pastor of Rhema Christian Center having begun that work with seven members. The church has grown profoundly and is making an impact in northeast Columbus, Ohio. The church has assisted in establishing six local congregations and developed Dayspring Christian Community Development Corporation providing affordable housing and economic opportunity for low-income families.
La Fayette has ministered to men across the United States and throughout the world. He is also a charter member of the Fellowship of Inner City Word of Faith Ministries (FICWFM).
Through the Network of Local Churches, La Fayette is recognized and set in the Church as an Apostle and functions in that capacity to many leaders, churches, and ministries locally, nationally, and internationally. La Fayette has ministered throughout the United States, Canada, Israel, Zimbabwe, Russia, South Africa, Australia, Latvia, Estonia, Sweden, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Fiji, Peru, Ecuador, and Singapore and throughout the Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia and the Dominican Republic.
He has authored two books, What is the Church Coming To and It’s The Walk Not The Talk, as well as numerous manuals, articles and papers to strengthen the church and train leaders. In May, 2003 Pastor Scales received an Honorary Doctorate of Divinity from Beulah Heights Bible College in Atlanta, Georgia.
La Fayette resides in Columbus, Ohio with his wife, Theresa and their children, Jonathan & Nataria Scales, their two children Marques and Mia, Marshall & Yolonda Ziglar, and Christopher.
In the 2000 – 2004 quadrennial, he served as chair of the Lay Commission and as a member of the World Methodist Council. He has chaired the Health Commission and twice as chair of the Commission on Seminaries, Universities, Colleges and Schools. In 2002, Bishop Richardson served as President of the Council of Bishops and the Presiding Bishop of the 19th Episcopal District with headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa. Beginning in 2004, he served as the presiding bishop of the Second Episcopal District which includes North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC. For eight years, the Second District saw phenomenal growth in membership, educational support, missions-related ministries, and ministry to men, health, prisons, the advancement of women in ministry, and a commitment to social and political action. Bishop and Mrs. Richardson took great pride in the District’s embrace of ministries to youths and young adults. At the 2012 General Conference, Bishop Richardson was elected president of the General Board and was assigned to the Electrifying, Empowering Eleventh Episcopal District which includes Florida and the Commonwealth of the Bahamas. Prior to his election as a Bishop, he was senior minister of the Bethel A. M. E. Church, Tallahassee, Florida. For eighteen years his leadership and teaching skills produced a major ministry of growth in membership, new and expanded facilities, outreach to the poor and dispossessed, with an active presence in the community.
Since retirement, Suzanne has served on several non-profit boards and has been heavily involved in all aspects of CAJM since its inception. She has a particular passion for alleviating racial injustices and all issues that address those inequities. For fun, Suzanne created a small millinery business where she designs and hand makes women’s hats and fascinators.
Suzanne is married 45 years to Frank, has two sons and five grandchildren who bring enormous joy. She was one of the first women to graduate from the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a Bachelor of Science Degree in Chemical Engineering with highest honors.
Mrs. Young has focused her life’s work on the indigent population in need of health services. She has also served as the Vice President of the Black Nurses Chapter in St. Petersburg, an active member in the Urban League, and a leader with her congregation’s mission ministry and health ministry. She is the proud mother of two children and grandmother of two grandchildren.
As a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin in 1968, John was recruited to participate in a march led by Father James Groppi from Milwaukee to Madison to prevent cuts in basic welfare programs. John and his wife, Betsy – a fellow Returned Peace Corps Volunteer – would drive out to meet participants walking in the march every day, march alongside with them, and then return back to school every night. John became the Head Organizer for the Wisconsin Welfare Rights Organization.
In 1974, John, his wife and two kids left for Cleveland where he been hired at the modest sum of $600 a month for six months to pull together a community organization. John met Herb White, a United Church of Christ Minister, during his time in Cleveland. Herb ultimately became John’s mentor and has played an instrumental role in developing and challenging John during the early stages of his career. Herb’s experiences with organizing and ministering to local congregations helped to crystallize much of the approach used in the formative years of DART. It was Herb White and a local sponsoring committee who originally invited John to Miami, Florida in 1977 to begin a local community organization, Concerned Seniors of Dade. John and the Concerned Seniors group quickly became known for routinely producing hundreds of people to city meetings to voice their opinions. Given the success of Concerned Citizens, Herb, along with Msgr. Bryan O. Walsh, Joe Mazanek, and Rev. J.W. Stepherson, further encouraged John and a colleague, Holly Holcombe, to form the DART Center and accept invitations to build new organizations throughout the state of Florida and beyond.
A three-day race riot that lit up the city of Miami in 1980 turned out to be another turning point in the history of DART. The riot broke out after an all-white jury acquitted four white Miami police officers of killing Arthur McDuffie, a black insurance salesman, whom they had mortally beaten with flashlights and nightsticks. Eighteen people died during the ensuing rioting and more than $100 million was lost in property damage. The officers’ acquittal and the devastation left behind by the riots angered and shocked all those involved with Concerned Seniors. It seemed everyone was looking for a way to do something. John along with others led an organizing drive among African American congregations throughout Miami-Dade County, eventually forming People United to Lead the Struggle for Equality (PULSE). After winning several local issues related to minority hiring and job creation, a leader from PULSE challenged the organization to deal with the continued lack of accountability for police officers involved in several killings of African Americans in the 1980s in Miami. When formal charges were made against the officers in question, they were acquitted of wrongdoing in court. After a series of cases, it became apparent that the attorneys for the police were able to create an unlevel playing field by striking African Americans from the jury pools using peremptory challenges. Ultimately, PULSE prevailed at the state level making it illegal to use peremptory challenges based on race.
After PULSE, John began organizing Justice for All in Broward (JAB), and ultimately those involved began to see the state of Florida as fertile grounds for a network of local community organizations. In 1982, the DART Center was founded to answer invitations to build community organizations. Originally, the notion was to build a statewide network of local organizations in Florida, but when people from outside the state attended DART trainings, invitations to work elsewhere came into DART’s office and were accepted.
John served as DART’s Executive Director from 1982 until 2013 when he retired.
Rev. Rivers is married to the former Carolyn Smalls of Charleston and has four children and six grandchildren. He received his bachelor’s degree from Wilberforce University in Ohio. He was ordained at the Olivet Baptist Church of Christ in Fayetteville, GA by the late Dr. Howard W. Creecy, Sr.
In July 2014, Rev. Rivers became Vice President of Religious Affairs and External Relations of the National Action Network (NAN) under the courageous leadership of the Rev. Al Sharpton. Rev. Rivers is honored to work with Rev. Sharpton in an organization known for taking action in today's civil rights battles.
In September 2008, Rev. Rivers became Pastor of Charity Missionary Baptist Church in the Liberty Hill community of North Charleston, SC. He is committed to preaching and teaching the “liberating good news” of Jesus Christ. During his tenure, more than 900 members have joined Charity and in 2015, the church completed a new 500-seat sanctuary and administrative building. Charity has 43 ministries and their guiding scripture is Ephesians 4:3 “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
For over 38 years Rev. Rivers worked at every level of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) including President, North Charleston, South Carolina Branch; Executive Director, South Carolina State Conference; Director, Southeast Region; Chief Operating Officer, twice as Chief of Field Operations, and Vice President of Stakeholder Relations from 2008 until May 2014.
His civil rights work led to the election of more than 300 new black elected officials in South Carolina between 1986 and 1994. He was a leading organizer of the largest civil rights demonstration in the history of South Carolina when over 50,000 marched Columbia, SC, January 2000 to demand the removal of the Confederate Battle Flag. Rev. Rivers was there when the flag was finally removed from the front of the capital in 2015.
Rev. Rivers is immediate past co-president of the Charleston Area Justice Ministry (CAJM) and was a founding member of CAJM in 2011. CAJM is an inter-faith, inter-religious, inter-racial group of 30 congregations and organizations in the Charleston, SC area doing justice through congregational work. In 2016, Rev. Rivers was appointed to the Board of Directors of the Direct Action and Research Training Center, (DART), a national network of grassroots, nonprofit, congregation-based community organizations that brings people together across racial, religious and socioeconomic lines to pursue justice in their communities. In November 2018, Rev. Rivers was invited and spoke at the Historic Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. pastored.
He served on the Board of Trustees of Wilberforce University from 1994 until 2014 and is now Trustee Emeritus. Rev. Rivers was president of the Wilberforce University Alumni Association, from 1994 to 1998. Under his leadership, alumni membership tripled and the alumni contributed over $2 million to the university. Rev. Rivers has appeared on BET, NPR, CNN, MSNBC, Sky News and 60 Minutes. He had a speaking role in the movie Separate but Equal starring Sidney Poitier.
He has received numerous awards for his civil rights and community work, including:
- Order of the Palmetto, the State of South Carolina’s highest award
- Honorary Doctor of Humanities Degree, Wilberforce University
- Induction in Wilberforce University Association Hall of Fame
- Induction into the South Carolina Black Hall of Fame
- Medgar Evers Award of Excellence in 2004 as the top NAACP staff professional
- Honored with month of October 2008 South Carolina African American Heritage Calendar
- 2016 H. E. DeCosta Trailblazer Award by South Carolina African American Heritage Commission
- 2018 Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Vision Award by the YWCA of Greater Charleston during their MLK Celebration
- 2018 Grimke Award Recipient from The Sophia Institute
Rev. Rivers is guided by the words of Jesus the Christ found in the Gospel of Mark 10:43: “Yet it shall not be so among you, but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant.” He is honored to be a servant of the people of God!
John Aeschbury – Executive Director
Haley Grossman – Director of Organizing
Sarah Storar – Director of Leader Training
Jennifer Ruglio – Director of Organizer Training
Karen Robson – Training Coordinator
Carolina Hernandez – Administrative Assistant
Megan O’Brien Josey – Caring for Creation
Ben MacConnell – Great Plains Coordinator
Shanae’ Calhoun – Consultant for Great Plains
Laura Guy – Great Plains Congregational Recruitment Director
Moe Leneweaver – Director of Recruitment
Melissa Pluss – Assistant Recruitment Director
Asia Pitts – Assistant Recruitment Director
Bevy Daniel – Assistant Recruitment Director