Inspire Dayton: How this pastor works to make Riverside a better place to live

Dan Powell, pastor of Calvary Open Bible Church on Valley Street, is working with Mad River Schools on a mentorship program. “My eyes have been opened,” Powell said. “I’m blessed, living in, I guess, the higher income in Riverside, but I didn’t realize the poverty that was just down the street from us.”
Dan Powell, pastor of Calvary Open Bible Church on Valley Street, is working with Mad River Schools on a mentorship program. “My eyes have been opened,” Powell said. “I’m blessed, living in, I guess, the higher income in Riverside, but I didn’t realize the poverty that was just down the street from us.”

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Credit: JIM NOELKER

Riverside Pastor Dan Powell wants kids to have a steady influence in their lives.

Powell, the pastor for Calvary Open Bible Church on Valley Street, works with Mad River Schools on a mentorship program involving about 20 churches in Riverside and about 50 mentors. The program connects kids with adults who can mentor them. It also collects backpacks, hats, gloves and other items at local Riverside churches to give to Mad River schools students; organizes citywide events; and works to inspire teachers.

Powell said he did not realize the poverty in Riverside and the number of children who don’t have the resources they need to succeed until he started looking into it more after becoming a pastor. He was formerly a CPA for Reynolds and Reynolds.

“My eyes have been opened,” Powell said. “I’m blessed, living in, I guess, the higher income in Riverside, but I didn’t realize the poverty that was just down the street from us.”

The Dayton region is known for coming together in tough times to help one another. Throughout December, the Dayton Daily News will tell the stories of people who have inspired others during this challenging year.

The Riverside schools partnership has been going on for the past four years. Powell also has started similar programs in Miamisburg, West Carrollton, West Dayton and North Dayton, involving local churches and local schools.

In 2014, Powell began reaching out to other pastors. He said he bluntly told them the way they had been sharing the gospel was ineffective. About two thirds of the churches in Riverside now work with Powell on the Hope4Riverside project.

Jenny Alexander, a spokeswoman for Mad River schools, said Powell has helped students succeed.

“Since Dan walked into the doors of Mad River Local Schools, he has managed to create lasting relationships, friendships, and programs that will touch thousands of students and families for years to come,” she said. “We thank Dan and his fellow pastors for all of their help and commitment in shaping our students’ lives.”

Mad River Schools have been wonderful to work with, Powell said.

“The superintendent is incredible,” he said. “The faculty and staff are amazing.”

This year has been challenging to his mission, he said. He began greeting kids at the beginning of the year when they walked into Stebbins High School, but that had to be shut down quickly because of the pandemic.

After a Mad River student died during a pickup basketball game in May from a heart condition, Powell said Calvary Open Bible Church was able to host an outdoor, socially distanced memorial service for the student, because they had the space on their church’s grounds.

In 2021, Powell said he wants to encourage community, including working with the Mad River Schools teachers to possibly host a parade for all Mad River Schools families to let them know that someone cares about them.

Either way, Powell said he plans to work to make Riverside a better place to live and encourage people to find God.

“We’re trying to be a caring adult to encourage success in the students,” Powell said. “We’re also trying to encourage the teachers along the way.”

Inspire Dayton

Throughout the month of December, the Dayton Daily News will tell the stories of people who have persevered and inspired others during this challenging year. Read all the stories at DaytonDailyNews.com/inspire-dayton. Tell us who inspired you in 2020 by emailing jordan.laird@coxinc.com.