COMMUNITY GEMS: Volunteerism in Dayton at Donald Bush’s core

When Donald Bush came to Dayton when he was 21 years old, he decided to make it his home.

“I thought, this is just the city I want. Everybody was so friendly. There was so much culture. Dayton has so much culture, and I was just drawn to that, and I decided to make this my home when I was 21,” said Bush, who was nominated as a Dayton Community Gem. “And I’ve been here ever since.”

He has since spent his time watching the city grow through his 30-plus years in the field of early childhood.

“I’ve always been interested in education and early childhood,” Bush said. His professional career also spilled over into volunteering in the community, including for the Dayton Association for the Education of Young Children and also with Junior Achievement of Dayton.

“Volunteerism’s at my core, and I hope that that’s my legacy,” Bush said.

It is this community-mindedness that led Beth Engelhardt to nominate Bush as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem, saying Bush is “a voice for the community.”

“He is just so community oriented,” Engelhardt said. “He just helps everybody and doesn’t treat people differently.”

Bush’s career in early childhood overlapped with his current 20-plus years working for Goodwill Easterseals Miami Valley, first as a job coach, then as an employment specialist, and now as an employee relations advisor, a role in which he has been for 15 years now.

“I work with all of our 1,200-plus employees throughout a 23-county region with any issue they might have,” Bush said. “We’ve really helped change people’s lives, and I think this role is kind of instrumental in helping them realize their full potential and empowering them to be the best they can be.”

While making an impact in the lives of Goodwill employees’, Bush hasn’t forgotten his appreciation for Dayton. He was a graduate of Leadership Dayton and was a Leadership Ohio Fellow, being recognized as Leadership Ohio’s Leader Among Leaders in 2020.

In an effort to better understand policing, Bush went through the Dayton Citizens Police Academy, later becoming the founder and president of the Dayton Citizens Police Academy Alumni Association and vice president for the FBI Cincinnati Citizens Academy Alumni Association.

“I really follow the philosophy of the community-oriented policing where the community needs to be involved. Everybody needs to be accepting responsibility,” Bush said.

Bush eventually went on to get ordained through the Universal Life Church so he could help respond to instances where people would need counseling, including after the 2019 mass shooting in the Oregon District. Bush said an officer called him and had him come to Dayton Convention Center, where they were having families and loved ones of the victims gather.

“We could just comfort them,” Bush said. “That was an emotional night.”

His role in the FBI Cincinnati Citizens Academy Alumni Association is also to help support the FBI’s outreach efforts, including supporting anti-human trafficking efforts is through its Topgolf Fundraiser being held on Oct. 1. For more information, visit the association’s website at Proceeds from the fundraiser benefit organizations in Cincinnati, Columbus, and Dayton, including the Oasis House of Dayton.

For more than 20 years, Bush also volunteered as an on-air personality for Think TV, Dayton’s local PBS station. He also volunteered for more than 25 years at the Victoria Theatre Association, now Dayton Live.

Bush is also a big supporter of the Levitt Pavilion Dayton, a nonprofit concert venue. Bush and his partner of more than 20 years, Troy, spend time together at the Levitt watching the free concerts each summer.

“I love it because everybody from every walk of life is on that lawn to watch that free concert,” Bush said.

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