From Small Town NC to Binghampton, SOS Summer Staffer Now Calls Memphis Home

From Small Town North Carolina to Binghampton, SOS Summer Staffer Now Calls Memphis HomeInterview by Jonathan King

What brings a North Carolina Tar Heel grad to Memphis, TN? Recently, I sat down with Dalton Covington, who moved to Memphis just one month ago to invest his life in the next generation of youth in Binghampton.

Where are you from, Dalton? I grew up in Mebane, NC, population 12,000. I went to the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and graduated in May 2015 with a degree in Communication and Religious Studies.

How did you get connected to Memphis? A few of my house mates and I came to work with SOS on Spring Break during my junior year of college. Memphis was not on my radar at all before that. I had no perceptions of what Memphis was like or what to expect.

So, what do you remember from that first exposure? I remember working in the Mound, hanging out with Isaac (former full-time SOS employee), learning about him, about roofing and what SOS is all about. It really hooked my interest! I remember lunchtime devotions and I remember this kid named Michael (not his real name). Michael, a kid from the neighborhood, would come and work with us. He had a lack of male friendships, a lack of positive influence in his life and was surrounded by some tough situations. His life became real to me. It was no longer just a story in a newspaper or on TV, it was real life. He didn’t have many opportunities, it seemed. Michael became an image of Memphis in my mind and it compelled me.

So, what changed after that week about how you thought about your future? I know it sounds crazy, but before coming to Memphis I had this vision of starting a CrossFit gym overseas as a way to share the Gospel. But after spending that week with Michael, I realized that I could do it in Memphis. I had this dream of building relationships and mentoring in the context of a gym or fitness center. That week, I told my friend, Zach (Zach Pappas is now in our SOS Academy!), that I wanted to do that in Memphis.

So, what made you decide to give an entire summer to work with SOS here in Memphis? After that initial week on Spring Break, I came for a two-week visit the next summer and saw the summer staff in action. I saw the Construction Managers staying up late to help each other and homeowners. I saw the staff servant, Jay, caring for the guys. The community was appealing. I got to visit worksites and encounter more “Michaels”. I saw a big effort here at SOS to care for people and meet real needs. So, when I thought about my final summer after college, summer staff was a no brainer!

So, you came in 2015 to work as a Construction Manager - how was it? Summer 2015 was crazy, wild. I could not imagined the unity of the Spirit among the Construction Managers. We cared for people and didn’t just fix roofs. We met people on Summer Ave and were able to show compassion. Among the staff, there was never a need raised which was not overwhelmingly met. “Hey, my tarp was ripped in half and it’s 6pm, can you help me?” Yes! There was a cool unity and generosity among the staff.

So, why do you believe SOS Summer Staff is a prime option for college students? Summer Staff is simple and pure, but sky is limit too. They just put you in the path of opportunities to love and care like Jesus did. We are going to put you in front of people who have physical and spiritual needs. We are going to exhaust you and you’ll get to the end of your rope. Because the sky is the limit for a summer staffer. What you can get from it is what you put in. Compassion is kindness with work clothes on. That’s what summer staff is.

Who was someone you met in the neighborhood who really encouraged you? Ms Jackie. I learned from her. She blessed me. She was the embodiment of joy and gratitude. She wasn’t just thankful because we were working on her house, she was just unshakably joyful despite her circumstances. She could not have been more excited to see us, to talk with us and share how she had been blessed by God.

How did Memphis become solidified in your vision of your future after college? All summer God was trying to show me that this is the right thing for me. I am here because I see a great need here. I moved here because I want to be able to plant my life in a community and strategically love and be faithful in a world that is so constantly changing.

Can you tell us a little about what you are doing now? I moved into Binghampton and I guess you could say my job is to be a jack of all trades at the Carpenter Art Garden, though they call me the Program Development Coordinator. The Art Garden provides places and spaces for the kids to find creative potential, self-worth and relationships. I help programs get started and exist for the purpose of serving others. Programs exist for people, not the other way around. We’ve also got this great, strategic location. You can’t help but see the Purple House across the street from the school. It’s filling a big void for kids in the neighborhood.

If you are interested in being a part of a community like the one Dalton describes, submit your SOS Summer Staff application starting October 7! You will find the application HERE.