Dads in the Limelight – Bill Dodge

Our 24th Dad in the Limelight is Bill Dodge of http://www.uticamission.org/. I want to thank Bill for being a part of this series. It has been great getting to know him and now sharing him with all of you!

1) Tell me about yourself, (as well as how you are in the limelight for my readers knowledge)

I am a father of a now 17-year-old diva named Aleta.  I live in Utica, NY.  I am the CEO of a faith based non-profit that provides services to the needy in our community. It’s called the Rescue Mission of Utica. 

Ever since I can remember, I have been up in front of people in some way. When I was in first grade, I performed in “Frosty the snowman” and found out how much fun it was to hear people applaud for me when I was on stage. That led to me singing the lead role in an operetta in 6th grade in “Amahl and the night visitors.” Later in High School I went on to be selected for lead roles in three HS musicals: South Pacific, Oklahoma, and Fiddler on the Roof. I always loved performing and singing.

It’s probably a good thing, because my chosen career was as a church pastor, and that’s what I prepared for in Bible College and Seminary. I had no idea, however, that my life would be any more in the limelight than that. That is, until I wound up working for a Rescue Mission in Grand Rapids, MI as a chaplain. In that role, my boss wanted to do a daily radio program and wanted me to co-host it. I was a little uncertain at first, but those impromptu radio programs went pretty well.

In 2005 I was hired in my current position as Executive Director in upstate NY, and found a great opportunity in our town for getting out message out through radio and TV on a regular basis. I am considered a “frequent guest” on radio and TV talk programs, and if there is a question about how to help the homeless, the reporters often call me for a story. In fact, we recently started a renovation project and had cameras and microphones from six media outlets with local and regional radio, TV and newspapers covering the story.
2) Tell me about your family
My wife is amazing. She and I met on a blind date when I was in grad school in Michigan. We dated for three years. She is a musician who plays five instruments, including bassoon which she played in a symphony orchestra for 20 years in Michigan. We met when I was a church choir director and one of my choir members set us up on the blind date.

Our daughter Aleta is the light of both of our lives, and she is a little bit of a performer too. She plays piano and trumpet and loves performing in High School musicals like her dad did.

3) What has been the largest challenge you have had in being a father?

I have to say by far the biggest challenge is balancing work and home life. It’s tough to reach out to others all day and have anything left for them afterwards. I also have tried very hard to live in such a way that we could always survive on one income so my wife could be home as much as possible with our daughter. I think we did ok with that one.

4) What advice would you give to other fathers?
I have learned that the early years of a child’s life are really important. The more you love on your kids and focus on the basics at a young age, the better the prospects for them as a teenager. I am crazy about my daughter, and she knows it. I think because she knows it and is secure in my love for her, she won’t need to go looking for Daddy’s love in all the wrong places. I have seen this scenario play out over and over again in the lives of the clients we serve in the inner city. When Dad is not involved, the girls look for him somewhere else. So I suggest Dads show their little girls that they are wild about them, and provide a solid foundation early on.

One other piece of advice – READ TO THEM. I used to read a portion of the Chronicles of Narnia to Aleta every night before bed, and that was great to build imagination and vocabulary. It also did wonders for creating a strong bond we will always have.

5) Seeing that you (or your position) is in the limelight, how have you come to balance parenthood and outside life?
As a family, we are pretty committed to eating together for dinner as much as possible. This is a natural time to stop and catch up with each other, even when we are busy.

My job sometimes means that I travel, too. I have requested to be able to take my family with me for at least one trip every year so that they can enjoy some of my world. We have gone on several work trips together that have doubled as family vacations that we could have never afforded on our own. This has provided great memories for us and helped us through the times we can’t all be together.

6) What have you learned from the fathers that you have interacted with?
This may not seem very profound, but I have learned that most Dads love their kids more than their kids know. My father in law never said I love you to my wife but she knew he loved her. The guys in our inner city programs are more likely to make changes in their lives if they have a son or daughter that is waiting for them to finish their program.

One of the best lessons I learned about raising kids was actually from a Dad who was also my seminary professor – he used to say, “An obedient child is a happy child.” We used that mantra so much with our daughter that she still knows it today.

7) What else would you share regarding your experiences as a father thus far?
I think its really important that Dads have time with other men and Dads to do man things, and come back refreshed to give back to their families. I can’t tell you how often I was able to begin to work tough parenting problems because I had lunch with my buddy who was a home school dad, and had the same trouble I was facing. Or an older couple at church that told me about what they did when they weren’t sure what to do. I don’t know about the whole “it takes a village” thing, but I do know that we can’t do it alone.

8) What have been the most memorable experiences that you have had thus far as a parent?
At the top of my list has to be when I first heard my baby’s heartbeat in the doctor’s office. We were ALL in tears that day. Right next to that is having the honor to cut the umbilical cord when she was born (without fainting!).

A little later, after she came into her own in our faith, I had the privilege of baptizing her in our church. She was so happy, and so was I – more than words can describe. Last year we started the obligatory Daddy driving school after she turned 16. I think I will always remember teaching her how to park between the lines in the school parking lot.

And to wrap it all up, I will always remember her smiling at me when she runs to give me a welcome home hug. That makes my day, my life…. every time.

If you have any questions for Bill., please leave a comment here and I will make sure that he gets them so that he may be able to respond!

Also, do you know a Dad in the Limelight? If so, please email me their contact information so that they too can be a part of this series!

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