Sep 08Difference Makers: Get to Know Mercy Housing’s Dayron Blackwell
Dayron Blackwell’s title may read “Case Manager II” at Mercy Housing’s Clare Gardens, but to residents and staff, he is so much more. A friend. A mentor. A trusted colleague. A leader. A ray of sunshine. A difference maker. Dayron has mastered the art of wearing many different hats.
Born in Dallas, TX., Dayron has always been a “go-getter.” He lost his father when he was six years old, which left a major impact on him and how he would see life. Decades later, his three children would lose their mom suddenly. It was at that moment that Dayron knew that he had to create a life for his children that would give them the opportunities he did not have as a young child.
“I knew that I had to build a wall of protection for my kids that they didn’t know they needed,” he recently explained. “I had to make sure that their choices were different than mine when I was their age.” Having visited Colorado previously, Dayron had fallen in love with Denver and made the decision to move his family to the Mile High City for a fresh start.
The Terebinth Tree
Working in sales at the time, Dayron and his kids settled into their new home and got involved with a local church, where he met a couple of church members who would later become his friends. Together, they decided to launch a nonprofit called “The Terebinth Tree.”
“Terebinth means oak,” Dayron explained. “And an oak tree, once grounded and rooted, becomes almost impossible to rip from the ground.”
The nonprofit works with people experiencing homelessness by providing them with meals, warm clothes, and messages of encouragement. Seeing how other nonprofits focus on giving throughout the holidays, The Terebinth Tree reaches out to those in need over the entire year every month.
The Pandemic Meets Hope
When the pandemic began, many people felt as if their life was put on hold. But not Dayron. “That was one of the best things to ever happen to me,” he reflected. “I had been working in sales for 17 years, and instead of sitting in the basement playing video games with my kids, I decided to apply for a new job.”
One of the jobs Dayron applied for was with Mercy Housing. The next thing he knew, he was interviewing for a position at Mercy Housing’s Aromor Apartments.
“I went through three rounds of interviews,” he said with a smile. The job was his, and he wasted no time jumping right in. Whether it was helping to set up events or helping to clean up post-events, Dayron immediately understood the importance of working together for a common goal. It was something he communicated whenever he spoke with residents and staff. “One of my goals was to show people what happens when we become unified.”
Clare Gardens Comes Calling
“I love talking to people.” Those were the first words out of Dayron’s mouth when sitting down to talk. His positive attitude is infectious, and word about the impact he was making at Aromor Apartments soon made its way to Clare Gardens, where he was offered a position. Moving from a 60-person resident community to a community with a couple of hundred residents took a little getting used to, but if anyone could acclimate, it was him.
He also wanted to show residents something positive happening within the neighborhood. And it worked. Clare Gardens held a Back-to-School Drive in July, and Dayron invited the Denver Police and Fire Departments to the event. “I wanted to share that we are all part of one community,” he explains. The event was a success as kids, parents, policemen, and policewomen sat together and talked over ice cream about topics ranging from how to become a peace officer to the importance of staying in school. The kids were given tours of a fire truck and even met two of the police department’s horses.
As Denver Police Officer Abrams said, “Answering questions and connecting with the community is most important.”
The word “legacy” is especially important to Dayron. He intends to leave one for the next generation and the one after that, and the one after that. “I know what it’s like to crawl, and I know how hard it is to take a risk,” he said. “I don’t want to be forgotten over time.”
“Maybe I’ll be the guy who helped someone become a better parent, or maybe I’ll be remembered as the guy who told you that it’s okay to break the cycle and have lofty goals,” Dayron explained.
“But if I can change the life of one child today, then they can change the life of a child one day too.”
Whether it is joining youth residents for a field trip to go fishing (which he admits is not his favorite past time), dividing backpacks and other school supplies by age, initiating games with water balloons, or spending time tutoring residents, Dayron is already planting roots that with continued nurturing, love, and sunshine, stand tall in the years to come.
In the meantime, Dayron has returned to school to pursue his master’s degree. He is currently on track to graduate in 2023 with a master’s in professional counseling. Thank you for all that you do for Mercy Housing, Dayron!
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