Sam Dunn - Former Board Member of NECIC
"Drove a prison bus" isn't likely on Sam Dunn's resume. You'll find customer service, masonry, banking, and city councilmen, but you won't find "prison bus." Yet, he'd tell you it had been one of his favorite jobs of all time. It started the way most of Sam's ideas start, as a solution to a problem. NECIC's elder program was providing activities, lunches, and speakers to the older population of Mansfield city. Part of that group, Sam learned, no longer drove, leaving them isolated from the community. He fixed the problem by buying a retired prison bus to provide transportation.
It's that "fix-it" attitude that's led his career in public service; an original board member of NECIC, he quickly found himself the unofficial handyman, repairing what was broken because he knew how. When talk turned to building a community tool shed, Sam acquired the shed and contacted the MTD company to purchase the needed tools at cost. When the number of abandoned houses and lots became overwhelming, Sam bought a truck and hired 100 kids to mow those yards. And when the federal grant money to pay those kids ran out, Sam implemented a policy in which people could borrow the lawn mowers and weed eaters if they were willing to mow someone else's yard for free. “You deal with what you have, not complain about what you don’t have,” Sam says.
Sweat equity isn't the only thing he teaches; he uses his background in banking to teach financial literacy. "You can teach anyone anything, and they won't even realize they're learning if you have fun," Sam says. "You need the basics to build a foundation." Those lessons in financial literacy come in many forms; maintaining equipment, planting gardens, and fixing homes to attract younger people back into the area. Sam remembers he bought NECIC's first house for $69, arranged the volunteer rehab crews, and sold it a few weeks later for $6000. "You turn a house back into a home, and you turn a cluster of homes into a neighborhood."
Sam may be retired now, but he's not ready to give up. "I'm not an elder," he said with a laugh. "I can't sit down until someone takes over." When thanked for his years of service, Sam is quick to say he doesn't work for the praise. "The only thank you I need is when I get to God and he says, ‘Well done.’"