‘It’s my turn to give back’
An interview with new Federation President David Pierce
By Marshall Weiss, The Dayton Jewish Observer
For attorney David Pierce, a little good timing goes a long way. A month after his installation as president of the Jewish Federation in August, the Federation received revenue of $957,672 from the HUD-approved sale of Covenant Manor Section 8 apartment complex in Trotwood to PF Holdings for $2 million. Pierce facilitated the sale on behalf of the Covenant Manor Board, which directed the revenue to the Federation after paying the remainder of its 40-year mortgage. Here, Pierce details his plans for the Federation during his term as president.
What led you to follow the leadership track with the Federation culminating in its presidency? Why do you give so much of your time?
Like many in the Dayton Jewish community, my family has a legacy of Jewish philanthropy and involvement. I was born in Dayton and lived here until I was in junior high school. I have fond memories of the Federation activities I engaged in as a child, such as playing in the JCC basketball league.
So when I was asked to join the board, I viewed it as an honor, not an obligation. As to the time commitment, our Jewish community can only prosper if people are willing to step up and commit to being part of the discussion and to work together to find solutions to our problems.
What key Federation initiatives have you been involved with before you became president?
Upon graduation from law school, I moved back to Dayton and quickly became involved in young adult events at Temple Israel and the Federation. From there, I became involved with Tzedakah Sunday and other Federation programs, and received the Allan L. Wasserman Young Leadership Award in 2007.
Since that time, I have been involved in numerous employment and personnel issues, including the decision to hire Federation CEO Cathy Gardner. Most recently, I accepted the challenge of addressing issues with the nursing home formerly known as Covenant House (Federation owns the property, which it leases to a private nursing care operator), and the relationship between Covenant Manor and the Jewish Federation. I am pleased to report that on Sept. 29, Covenant Manor was sold, and JFGD will be able to use the sale proceeds to bring us more financial flexibility to grow as a community.
Tell us about your involvement with Dayton Bar Association.
My first position as a licensed attorney was in Dayton, where I had not lived for a while. I quickly found that the Dayton Bar Association was a terrific way to network with fellow attorneys and judges to gain valuable knowledge as a result of their experiences. As with the Federation, I find that it’s my turn to give back. I frequently speak at continuing education seminars and work to mentor the next generation of lawyers in our community.
I was recently nominated and elected second vice-president of the DBA, and will become president of the organization the year after I finish my term as Federation board president.
What is your vision for the Federation?
My goal is to bring this community together to create a community-wide vision to make sure the Dayton Jewish community doesn’t just survive, but thrives in the distant future. We need to anticipate our future demographic makeup and make sure we offer programs and services for those in need locally, in addition to Jews around the world.
What key initiatives will you undertake with Federation?
Along with the visioning project, I am committed to overcoming the remainder of the challenges I inherited. First and foremost, is to make sure that the former Covenant House nursing home situation is stabilized. This property no longer serves the Jewish community and has been a drain on our balance sheet in recent years.
What do you see as the greatest challenges over the coming years for the Federation specifically and our local Jewish community overall? How do you hope to address them?
I don’t think we need the full results of our demographic study to understand that we have an aging Jewish population and that many of our seniors are moving out of the community. We need to make sure that we are addressing their needs. Just as important, however, is that we welcome and engage young Jewish professionals and families moving in to our community.
One of the challenges of being the president of any non-profit board is that just about the time you figure out what you really need to do, your term is over. I have tried to prevent that by attending conferences such as Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly in Washington, D.C. prior to becoming president, to learn about Federation governance and how similar agencies address the problems we are facing.
Covenant Manor continues as HUD apartment facility
In 1983, the Covenant Manor Board opened its 50-unit housing complex — developed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to serve low income seniors and those with disabilities — at the Jewish Federation’s campus in Trotwood. At the time, most area Jews lived nearby, in Dayton’s northern suburbs. In the late ‘80s and ‘90s, Covenant Manor became home to several elderly Jews whom the Federation had resettled from the former Soviet Union. With the HUD-approved sale of Covenant Manor to PF Holdings on Sept. 29, Jewish Family Services counselors continue to provide visits to the remaining Jewish residents, who live in nine apartments there.