Skip to main content

Orts, Revisited

I don’t know how many times I heard it. It was the summer of 1970. I was newly arrived in Decatur. I came as a free-lance community organizer, working the Torrence Park neighborhood.

During my first few weeks on the job, people kept saying it. “Fred, there’s this guy you need to meet, down at the First Christian Church. Name’s Ray Batman.” Finally I picked up the phone and arranged to drive my shaky pink Plymouth Valiant downtown to 441 North Church Street.

He greeted me at the door. We shook hands and wound our way down the hall to a cluttered storeroom in the basement. It was Dove’s first office, and he was its only employee. He and I had started our new jobs within days of each other at the tail end of June. We had that in common, and as it turned out, much more.

What he said that day stuck with me.

Memory is a tricky thing, and it’s been a very long time. But in my recollection, he introduced me to Dove something like this: “We’re a small bunch of white church folks, Fred. And our mission is to other folks like us. You see, racism is a white problem, not a black one. And if we’re ever gonna do anything about it, we need to work in the white community.”

That was gutsy. It was bold. I knew immediately that this guy got it, that here in front of me was a person of uncommon sense. And so he has proven to be, again and again – a person who can see a problem from a unique perspective and come up with an approach better than anyone else could have conceived. A person graced with vision and humor and kindness.

Back then sitting in his humble office, I know this was a guy I needed to know better. But little did I know that five years later I would become Dove’s third employee when Ray hired me. As 1975 opened, I trucked myself and a flourishing project for VISTA Volunteers from the then-defunct Torrence Park Citizens Committee a few blocks north to Dove’s second home in a small bungalow at 1112 East Locust Street.

And little did I know that three years after that, Ray would leave for a position managing Walter Scott Camp south of Effingham, and I would climb two flights of stairs to what had been Ray’s office in the attic and start a new job as executive director. Or that nine years later I would lure Ray back to Dove as its new finance director and genius-in-residence. Or that ten years after that I would take my leave, and Ray would resume his place as executive director.

And on that summer day in 1970, I could not have foreseen that, adding another 23 years, Ray and I would remain fast friends and confidants, that every week or so one of us would pick up his phone and we’d chat for an hour or so about all sorts of things, resolve none of them, and be okay with it.

If you’re counting, yes, that’s 50 years.

During that time, Dove has moved several times, from 1112 East Locust to 788 and 800 East Clay, and from Clay Street to its current headquarters at 302 South Union.

And while the organization has moved, one hopes it has kept its feet firmly planted in one place: in the daring mission that Ray laid out for it, to listen to uncommonly good sense, to prod, to poke, to be bold, and to take on the uneasy tasks. One hopes that Dove will always be proud to reflect the spirit of its founder.

(Fred Spannaus served Dove as a program director from 1975 to 1977 and as executive director from 1978 to 1997, and he has been an advisor to Homeward Bound for the past two decades. During his tenure as director, he wrote a column for DoveTales called “Orts.” If you must know, orts are scraps of food and a good end-of-game Scrabble play).

This original copy from the December 2020 DoveTales Newsletter for our "Anniversary Reflections" page. 


  1. Great post, Fred! I remember that office in the attic. Such found memories of DIVE, you, and Ray!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

You don't have to be able to Dance to do Baskets

  Growing up in the world of dance, one of my favorite things to do each year is participate in The Nutcracker Ballet. My favorite part? Giving the audience a magical Christmas experience with the perfect setting of lights, music, glittery costumes, and refined steps by ballerinas. The audience is transported to a magical land of sweets that makes even adults feel like small children in awe and wonder. Of course, that’s just what the audience sees! What they don’t see is the months and months before hand! Long rehearsals, bandage wrapped dance feet, and stage and tech crews working tirelessly so that every detail before the final show is perfected. After several years, I have started comparing the Christmas Baskets Process to that of the process for The Nutcracker Ballet. Starting months and months before, staff and volunteers work endlessly for the exhilarating distribution week to come. With that said, the magical essence of the Ballet experience cannot happen with just the prim

“have you talked to a trained domestic violence advocate?"

Have you ever had a victim of domestic violence try and open-up to you about their abuse and you not know what to say or how to handle it? Have you found yourself asking a victim of domestic violence, “why do you stay?” Moultrie County Dove Office understands that without being properly trained on domestic violence and best domestic violence practices, it is hard to know what to say or do when a victim of domestic violence finally decides to open-up to you about their abuse and we want you to be better prepared. Asking a victim of domestic violence “why do you stay” can place emphasis in the wrong place and make the victim feel as if they have done something wrong. In all actuality, there are many reasons victims of domestic violence stay in and return to abusive relationships. Victims of domestic violence stay in abusive relationships for fear for their personal safety and the safety and well-being of their children. Statistics show that a victim of domestic violence is at a 75%

Doing our part to make a difference.

 With so much talk everywhere on issues of violence, once again a topic discussed at the CONO (Coalition Of Neighborhood Organizations) meeting this past month in wonder of how to stop violence from happening in our community. Let’s consider narrowed down, violence begins in neighborhoods, no matter where they are. Cities including Decatur, have Stop The Violence campaigns and rallies in order to take a stand and to bring positivity and hope which is so important! But I wonder, doesn’t the remedy lay within each one of us? We must not close our eyes or turn a deaf ear, right, and when we see something, yes, we must say something, but isn’t there more? Doesn’t there need to be hands reaching out to one another in solidarity and hope with a goal in mind like the future of our family, neighborhood and ultimately our world. It begins in a neighborhood, your neighborhood and mine. So, if you don’t already have an active neighborhood group in your area, will you consider starting one? If so