Wiregrass 2-1-1 original executive director reflects before retirement

David Duke is as synonymous with Wiregrass 211 as their mission to collaborate, inform and connect. He is retiring after nearly three decades of social service.
Published: Jul. 26, 2023 at 9:18 PM CDT
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DOTHAN, Ala. (WTVY) - Wiregrass 2-1-1 is a nonprofit that works to collaborate, inform and connect people in need to resources available for assistance throughout the area. This nonprofit has been on this mission for over 15 years.

David Duke is the executive director and has led this mission since the beginning. After nearly three decades in the social services arena, Duke is retiring.

“I really think I gave it my all,” Duke said. “I really do.”

Duke gave it his all for 27 years serving the community for a living. The majority of that time he spent at Wiregrass 2-1-1.

“To not only to be a voice for those that are hurting and need a little help and need to get back on their feet but to be able to do everything I could to get the community together for a common reason, a common purpose and that being to help those less fortunate and when you do that our communities, our cities, our counties, is a better place to live and work for everybody,” Duke said.

Duke’s time of service was meant to be. He overcame trials and tribulations to help others do the same.

“My whole life has not been a bed of roses. I’ve had rough, rocky times in my life,” Duke said. “I’ve gone through a lot, it was tough.”

He reflects back to when he was 18 years old and started college.

“I didn’t have a penny,” Duke said. “I had a car, but it didn’t have a floorboard in the back seat, I didn’t let anybody ride back there. It barely ran, but I wanted to go to college, and I didn’t know what to do or how to do it.”

His drive for a higher education motivated him to use available resources like the career center. Where Dr. Linda Young, who is now the president of Wallace Community College, help put together a path for him.

“She began to I think fuel the fire for me to be able to do what I can to help others because just a little bit of help can go such a long way and can be so lasting for someone,” Duke said.

Duke hasn’t stopped since.

“I made it and I worked through it and I did that because there were people around me that cared enough about me genuinely that helped me and showed me the way,” Duke said.

Duke worked to show the way for others during his time at 2-1-1 by connecting them to better solutions during their challenges that can seem impossible to overcome.

“Sometimes you need to put others first, you need to do what you can to help others and during the process, you really discover who you are and what you’re all about and I think that’s what happened with me,” Duke said.

Over the years Duke pushed Wiregrass 2-1-1 to reach around 900 different partnerships, while always having the communities’ best interest at heart.

“If you want to feel good about yourself, if you want to feel like you’re making a difference, do something for someone else,” Duke said.

Duke is confident in his decision of retirement

“I have spent my almost 24/7 with 2-1-1 you know being available on the weekends to take calls and to do things, and I have enjoyed it,” Duke said. “I have enjoyed every minute of it. But, I knew that it was time. I can’t do what I used to do physically.”

He said he is ready to pass the torch of leadership and retire.

“I am so blessed and so thankful to be able to look back at what all I have enjoyed doing and what has happened as a result,” Duke said.

The new executive director is no stranger to Wiregrass 2-1-1. Marc Cronin will take over later next month.

“I look forward to the different challenges that will come our way between technology, and a growing community,” Cronin said. “I believe 2-1-1 has just started its mission in the area and I hope to see another 15 years’ time 50.”

Cronin was Duke’s first hire at 2-1-1 where they have worked alongside each other for over a decade.

“There is no other choice to be able to move into the executive director role than Marc Cronin,” Duke said. “He has a skill set that is unmatchable. He is perfect for this job and I am confident with the knowledge he has through the years, his abilities, I really see Marc taking 2-1-1 to the next level where I couldn’t do it but I can see where Marc can. I am very, very proud for Marc and officially he will move right into the executive director’s role.”

The two are cherishing the past while looking forward to the next chapter for the organization.

“David’s legacy is definitely community service and that is something that I would like to pick up and everybody I believe can pick up along the way,” Cronin said.

The staff of Wiregrass 2-1-1 is looking forward the communities continued support.

“The reason Wiregrass 2-1-1 started and the reason we are here 15 and a half years later is because of local support,” Duke said. “So, I can’t say thank you enough. Not just financial, emotional, it’s just the support has been overwhelming, so thank you, I appreciate it.”

Although Duke is retiring, the 2-1-1 quest of helping others get connected continues.

If you are in need of assistance or would like to join the Wiregrass 2-1-1 mission you can dial 211.

Click here to read more about how they give back to the community in this Wiregrass Gives Back installment.

Click here to view their website.

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