THE YEAR was 1979.
The Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series. The cost of a first-class postage stamp was 15 cents, and a loaf of bread was 40 cents. McDonald’s sold its first $1 Happy Meal, and the Sony Walkman was introduced to the world for $200.
1979 also marked the year David Perry joined the staff of the Arkansas Baptist Childcare and Family Services, now known as the Arkansas Baptist Children’s Homes and Family Ministries (ABCHomes). Perry, ABCHomes executive director, celebrated his 35th anniversary with the agency April 1. He’s the longest-tenured staff member employed with ABCHomes.
“From the very beginning of our ministry in Arkansas, God provided caring, loving and wise people, as well as supporting churches that have walked along beside us all those years,” said Perry of he and his wife, Lucia. “We have seen things that only God could do in the lives of individuals. To Him be the glory.”
In his first role at ABCHomes, Perry served as a caseworker at the former boys home in Jonesboro. Following a one-year stint, Perry was promoted to the area director in Harrison where he ministered for four years.
In 1985, Perry was named the ABCHomes Little Rock area director where he remained until 1991. He served as director of programs for the agency from 1991 to 1995. He was named executive director in 1995.
As executive director, Perry oversees the overall operation of the agency with its six residential programs and seven counseling locations. He is responsible for a $4 million budget and 70 employees. In addition, Perry is responsible for budget development, fundraising and marketing. He reports directly to the ABCHomes executive board of directors, as well as provides annual written and verbal reports to the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
Perry said he has had the “privilege to work with some of the most dedicated staff members and the greatest board of trustees anywhere.”
In honor of Perry’s longtime service, the ABCHomes executive board recently presented him with a two-week working and relaxation sabbatical, where Perry will concentrate on the future direction of the ministry and spend time in spiritual renewal.
Perry said he and Lucia have most enjoyed spending time with ABCHomes children.
“Truly some of the greatest blessings for me and Lucia have been the deep relationships we’ve developed with many of the children we’ve served through the years,” he said, adding, “It is overwhelming to think that some of those first kids are now approaching 50 years old.”
Over the years, Perry has represented ABCHomes in hundreds of Arkansas Baptist churches. He was appointed by former Gov. Mike Huckabee to the Arkansas Welfare Agency Review Board in 1997 and was the general chairman for the Southern Baptist Business Officers Conference in 2000.
He served as president of the Arkansas Association of Homes for Children in 1998, 2003 and 2012. Perry was the president of the Baptist Childcare Executives in 2000.
A native of Monahans, Texas, Perry is a graduate of Baylor University and the University of Georgia. He and his wife are longtime and active members of First Baptist Church, Sherwood, where he serves as a deacon. The duo are the parents of three adult children and have four grandchildren – Charlotte, Hudson, Emma and Addison.
Stella Prather is the communications director for ABCHomes.