Dr. Dallas Gatlin, Executive Director of Carriage Town Ministries (CTM), is retiring from his position after over 14 years. During his tenure at the faith-based shelter for homeless men, women and children in Flint, Dr. Gatlin has truly been a voice for the homeless. My City is proud to recognize him as our 2023 Cityzen of the Year. “I will turn 70 this year and it is time for me to move on. I feel at peace with God about it,” the director shares. “I will continue to be a supporter of CTM and I will support the new executive director in any way I can.”
Dr. Gatlin was kind enough to share his thoughts with My City about his life and family, his journey with CTM and his future in retirement.
MCM: Tell us about your education and work history.
DG: I received my bachelor’s degree from Kalamazoo College, a master’s degree from Central Michigan University and my doctorate from Olivet Nazarene University. I retired from General Motors, where over the course of three decades, I served in various leadership roles, including: Plant Superintendent, Plant Manager, Manager of Engineering Integration, and Director of Occupational Health, Safety & Environment for one of GM’s operating divisions.
MCM: Tell us about your family.
DG: I am married to Nola and have four adult children and nine grandchildren. At the very center of our lives for our entire marriage of 47 years has been God and family. I am thankful that my family has been able to be a part of this great mission. My incredible wife has been there every step of the way. Our adult children Nate, Nic, Emily and Tyler have all played various roles as have their spouses Heather, Kelli, Tyler and Nicole. My niece CJ and her husband Dan have also served with us. Our grandchildren have collected and delivered clothes, raised funds through lemonade stands, and work in our garden on Memorial Day plantings. Inlaws Kris, Debbie and Angi and sisters Cindy and Janene have all had occasional roles as staff, but most often as donors.
“In the Book of Matthew Chapter 6, the Bible says we should never do our giving in order to be praised by others. I am appreciative and thankful, but I’m also very humbled.”
MCM: What led you to your role at CTM?
DG: As I approached retirement from GM, I prepared for the next chapter of life by completing the education and ordination process with the Church of the Nazarene where my wife and I had served as lay leaders for many years. I thought perhaps I would serve as an interim pastor at churches in our denomination that were between pastors. It was during this time of preparation that a “chance” meeting happened with CTM board members during which I learned that they were conducting a search for their next executive director. One thing led to another, as God choreographed the dance that led them to call me over 14 years ago, to become only the fifth executive director since their founding in 1950.
MCM: Describe a typical day at CTM?
DG: I love our daily routine that starts with prayer and breakfast, followed by 30 minutes of chores, a morning devotion and neighborhood litter pickup over an 11-block area. It is part of our DNA to be a good neighbor to our neighborhood and to Flint. Children head to school, adults head to work or school. Some volunteer for the day at CTM working on job skills, stopping for five minutes of prayer at 10am. Then, it’s lunch together for staff and residents – all happening in a clean, safe and encouraging environment grounded in joyful productivity!
Community pastors come in at 5pm to lead chapel service, followed by dinner, clean-up, showers and bedtime. It has been my heart’s desire that our residents discover a way to build a life grounded in knowing God, gaining knowledge and skills, and living productively in a life free of episodes of homelessness and full of hope.
MCM: How did you help make a difference at CTM?
DG: My biggest accomplishment was coming up with a plan to help people find a way out of homelessness. I realized that what we needed was to focus on restructuring lives. In 2010, we launched the Personal Success Program which is based on helping the homeless individuals and families find sustainable income, a social support system and a spiritual foundation. Our mission was to provide a clean, safe place to live and work with community partners to provide assistance in areas such as substance abuse and mental health.
It was also important to me that CTM expressed love for our neighborhood. Love is action, not just a feeling. Jesus said to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.
I was also grateful and humbled to be involved with the completion of Blue Line Donuts, which provides job opportunities and training for our residents and fosters relationships with the community. I am so thankful for all of the people in the community who were a part of it.
MCM: Tell us about the team at CTM.
DG: I have been blessed to have Nic, Cindy, Karen, Kris, Trina, Donte, Brittany, Jordan, Nate and Eric, Emily, Eveton and CJ all serve in key leadership roles along with many others. We’ve also been blessed with great governance boards led by two presidents, Lori and Sharon, over the past 15 years. And of course, there have been staff favorites like Mr. Jim, who led our learning center for 30 years, and Miss Teresa and Miss Pat who have done so many things for so long. Mr. Derrick, Miss Agness, Miss Shryon, Miss Deb, Miss Tamela – I could go on and on. I will forever love these people and many others I cannot take time to mention here.
“My biggest accomplishment was coming up with a plan to help people find a way out of homelessness.”
MCM: What are your thoughts about being selected as MCM Cityzen of the Year?
DG: I’m honored. Everybody loves to be affirmed, but being the center of attention is not easy for me. It says in the Bible, in the Book of Matthew Chapter 6, we should never do our giving in order to be praised by others. I am appreciative and thankful but I’m also very humbled.
MCM: What are your plans for retirement?
DG: I plan to write – I already have several books in my head just waiting to come out. I will be available to guest preach at small churches. Most importantly, I will be a full-time “Papa” to our nine grandchildren – five girls and four boys, from one to ten years old. I’ll be reading and writing, gardening and building things, watching the stars by night and catching frogs by day – all with my grandchildren. I will walk with them, write with them and make music with them – and will talk to God with them. Hand in hand with Nola, it is God and family first.