He is a visionary and his visions shape the change that’s taking place in Millville at this very moment.
He is David Ennis, Lead Pastor of In His Presence Worship Center and Commissioner of Public Works for the City of Millville.
I nominated Ennis as a Community Superhero, because as a resident of Millville myself, I took notice of the effort he puts forth to redirect the road our citizens are taking and appreciate the heartfelt intent it takes to do so.
I met with Pastor Ennis to discuss some of the projects he’s been working on, his thoughts on the present and the future, and can honestly say, this nomination should have come a long time ago. He is truly an inspiration. His thoughts and ideals reach beyond the average mind and he dedicates himself in the service of others.
Ennis became a commissioner in November, and although he saw it as a challenge, he’s now settling in and using this opportunity to engage in the things he’s always done. His résumé of community service is not short in length by any means and has a strong focus on healthy and clean communities, healthy family planning, along with people working collaboratively toward a greater good.
Since elected, he has been working alongside volunteers to clean up the main entrances of Millville. He says, “These are the places that say hello to Millville and goodbye; it’s very important to keep them looking respectable.” Ennis also works diligently on the campaign, “Peace in the City,” a group of leaders and citizens working together to bring awareness to the crime epidemic Millville is facing.
While volunteers from all walks of life are welcomed, Ennis attempts to get people who aren’t currently working and may not have a good track or work record, to see how volunteering can be a good place to start. Volunteering allows potential employers to see that the individual is consistently reporting and working to the best of their ability.
Although they are not paid, Ennis acknowledges that some of the volunteers don’t have the means to completely provide for their families and is able to provide a small amount of funds to help pay for some of their essentials such as food or utilities. He says of the effort, “You help us clean the city and we’ll help you put food on your table and turn your electric or gas back on.”
To become a volunteer, all one would have to do is contact Dave Ennis at (856) 825-7000. You can also find him at any given time throughout the city, working on making our community a healthier, cleaner place.
With Cumberland County ranking last in overall child welfare, I wanted to get his thoughts on how, as a community, we can work together to change the statistics. His work on the front lines has allowed him to provide us with this insight:
“People need to be educated. People are parenting, unfortunately, who have not been parented. They grew up rather than being raised up. They’ve been trained, taught and really don’t know any better. One of the ways I have found that you can get people to do better is through knowledge.”
Knowledge IS the key to prevention. It’s reassuring to know that a person with the ability to get the attention of a larger base understands how imperative it is to start at the foundation.
He went on to say, “Children respond to love. When a child knows you love them and care about them, they don’t care who it’s coming from, or what ethnicity, or what source, as long as they know that you really care, then that’s what I truly believe is the turning point in a child’s life. That’s what helps to sustain children when they’re at a disadvantage coming from oppressed communities. We, as a community, have to become creative, we have to sacrifice our own time and our own way of doing things for the sake of children.”
Ennis finds it extremely difficult to watch a child helplessly try to survive when he knows there’s something he can bring to the table. He feels that this can begin by providing children with space. With the help of volunteers, he’s working to create areas where children can play and where they have room to grow. Of this Ennis says,
“You don’t have to have a lot of money … just spend time with them. The community can foster relationships. We’re living in the midst of an opportunity to see “It Takes a Village” played out.”
Can a village really come to the rescue? He thinks we can, and, I have to say, I’m behind him 100 percent. We cannot turn the other cheek, our children – all children, need the support of the community.
Ennis has a strong conviction that we can stimulate children through different visuals. For example, murals: “If you leave a child to visualize what he or she sees in their home, it’s a very small, negative world. But, when you walk outside of that door, and you look up on the side of a wall and you see a child who is surrounded by his family or her family – that can become a pivotal moment in child’s life where they start to understand, ‘That mural doesn’t look like what’s happening in my home, that’s something that I want to be.’” Ennis feels we need more visuals and has talked to different organizations about airing commercials to provide these images of families doing things together and working toward success.
“We need to help them dream again and recapture vision. A lot of young people have no vision,” Ennis said. One of the principles he stands on is, “Where there’s no vision, people perish.” He says, “Without a vision, there’s always the risk of someone else creating one for you, and that’s what we see a lot of. There’s no standard, there’s no vision in this county, not just Millville. If we could raise the standard in Cumberland County, stop handing out vouchers, as opposed to raising the standards and say, ‘Hey, let’s help you to get in college, let’s find a way to help you do a little better.'”
Ennis spoke of a book he read regarding child development and named the things he learned are critical for a healthy image: A sense of belongingness, a sense of worthwhileness, and a sense of competence. He says, “A child needs to have all three of these essential components functioning simultaneously in order for him or her to develop into a person that feels good when they reach a certain age (18, 19), because they’ve had these essential qualities cultivated into their life, you have a very good perspective of who you are and your self esteem is much higher opposed to a person who develops in a house where these essentials are not cultivated. There is no belongingness, no worthwhileness, there is no competence. You’re led to believe you’re defeated and we develop these very negative attitudes and perspectives and it contributes to the demise of our young people. We self-destruct because of what we’ve been taught and what has been cultivated into our minds.”
Years ago, Ennis and his wife owned a book store on High Street called “The Star of David.” With an empty back room, hearts of gold and a vision, they began a mentoring program, partnering children with young adults who were prepared to make a profound mark in a child’s life. In the beginning, they had more mentors than kids, but in a month’s time, the program grew to 75 kids – so many, in fact, that they outgrew the room and moved to Corson Hall. Every Saturday morning in his little black bus, he’d comb the city, making three, even four trips to pick up the kids. “They looked forward to this because it was a time for them,” Ennis says of his time with the at-risk youth.
Quoting John Wesley, he says, “‘If you set yourself on fire, they will come to watch you burn.’ That’s what it takes you have to ignite a fire within yourself that ‘I really want to rescue these children.’ You have to set yourself on fire and these kids will come. They’ll come because they’ll see it and say, ‘You know what? I want it.'”
Every superhero has a reason, or another superhero who they admire and who has contributed to their support system, giving them additional strength to share with others. For Ennis, that superhero is his brother, Rob. “He’s phenomenal … He’s patient … And, I’ve never heard him complain or say anything negative. He’s made many, many sacrifices to make sure other kids have what they need. He does his work in obscurity and is an inspiration to our youth.”
When asked what he would love to get out of his tenure as commissioner, Ennis said, “I would like to see a cohesiveness – people really coming together and maximizing the full potential of this city. We need to look at people as people – regardless of religious background or how many degrees they have – and we can get this work done.”
We all bring a set of skills or a gift to the world, and it’s our duty to share that gift with others to build the best possible community we can. One person can’t change the world on his or her own. It really does take a village. Dave Ennis is a Community Superhero because he not only sees these skills and gifts each person offers, but, he supports them and shows them how they can be exercised. We’re thankful for him and all that he’s done!
Would you like to be involved? Join his efforts and attend one or all of the events scheduled:
From Aug. 17th through the 22nd, there will be a Center City Revival at 221 East Broad Street, in Millville.
On Aug. 23rd, a Back to School party and book bag distribution for Millville students in Kindergarten through 7th grade, will be held at the Church of All Saints, on Buck Street, beginning at 11 a.m.
On Aug. 24th, In His Presence Worship Center and The Church of All Saints will host a block party at the Broad and High Street park across from City Liquor.
On Sept. 28th, Ennis will be celebrating his 12th anniversary as pastor of In His Presence. There is a full schedule of events planned for the occasion.
Do you know of a Community Superhero? Help CASA of CGS recognize the effort put forth by them to improve our community!
Email Jennifer Kaysen at Jennkaysen@gmail.com.
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