David Dennis is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Eckerd Connects, one of the nation’s largest non-profits providing workforce development, Job Corps, juvenile justice, and child welfare services across the country.
When David became CEO of Eckerd Connects in 2007, the organization was serving 9,500 youth per year across primarily residential programs in 8 states on annual revenue of $79M. Under his leadership, Eckerd Connects has grown to serving over 43,000 clients each year through more than 160 programs across 20 states and the District of Columbia, employing nearly 2,000 people with close to $240M in annual operating revenue. David’s career includes decades of directional leadership experience across each sector of the human services industry, including workforce development, behavioral health, juvenile justice, and child welfare.
After experiencing the death of his father, David watched the struggle of his uneducated, unemployed mother who cratered under the weight of raising two children. Because she was unable to overcome her battle with alcoholism, David was ultimately removed from his home by child protective services as a young boy. However, he was given a second chance after being adopted by a new family, and it was their stability and care that paved the path for his future.
These early childhood experiences motivated David to devote his life to strengthening families, and it was the catalyst that fueled his vision to move Eckerd Connects upstream, stopping the flood of poverty that ravages so many communities across the country. Though he spent his entire professional career working with children and families in crises similar to his own, David grew weary of seeing the pain in their faces and has become firmly convinced that poverty’s flood of misery will never be stopped by sandbags of social welfare programs or prison. Helping youth and adults get a job and education are the most powerful things society can do to move upstream in the fight against poverty and ultimately provide each child an opportunity to succeed. This will prevent children from entering the child welfare and/or juvenile justice systems, experiencing homelessness, or worse.
David’s leadership and vision has led to Eckerd Connects’ growth in workforce development over the last 5 years via mergers & acquisitions and through the winning of competitive procurements. Three mergers have occurred in the past five years including Paxen Learning in 2015, Henkel’s and McCoy Training Services Group in 2016, and Odle Management Group in 2020. Today, nearly 60 percent of Eckerd Connects clients are served in workforce development and Job Corps programs.
David has earned certifications as a licensed professional counselor, marriage and family therapist, and childcare administrator. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Oklahoma Baptist University and a master’s degree in marriage and family counseling from Southwestern Baptist Seminary.