COMMUNITY GEMS: Ken Clarkston ministers to inner city Dayton for 40 years

Every day for the last 38 years, Ken Clarkston has arrived at the Gospel Mission campus at 5:30 a.m. to study and prepare for a day of serving those in need. Between collecting donated food, managing volunteers, and being there for those who need a listening ear, it’s more than a full-time gig.

Gospel Mission, headquartered on Burns Avenue in the heart of Dayton, is a non-denominational Christian charity, providing meals, donations, computer classes, other training programs, and several religious social groups for both adults and children.

“The primary emphasis is the Ministry of the Word. Because that’s what we believe, that’s what changes people. We see great change here,” Clarkston said.

Clarkston and his wife Sue also run Camp Jabez in Spring Valley Twp., a faith-based children’s summer camp, that involves horseback riding, ziplining, fishing, hiking, arts and crafts, and other outdoor activities.

The charity celebrated its 111th anniversary in July.

Clarkston was nominated as a Dayton Daily News Community Gem by Allen Hye, professor emeritus at Wright State University.

“I was just always impressed with how devoted Ken Clarkston and his wife are,” Hye said. “He’s a terrific organizer, a terrific leader. He’s just a multi-talented guy, but he really, really cares about the people in his neighborhood.”

Clarkston has been the director of Gospel Mission for those 38 years, and been on the board there for 40. Prior to that, the Clarkstons owned and operated a small business, installing and repairing car radios and 4- and 8-track vehicle audio systems.

The two sold their successful business, feeling called to do ministry work, and have run Gospel Mission ever since.

“The Lord is the boss around here,” Clarkston said. “I’m working here to please the Lord, and he gives me the strength to do it.”

Volunteers from supporting churches across the Dayton area keep Gospel Mission running, Clarkston said. These include kids from suburban areas, who have an opportunity to see the work that goes on in inner cities.

“We want to get them encouraged to get out of their own shell and help other people. There’s always somebody in need,” Clarkston said.

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