HAMMOCK: Dando leaves major mark with FCA Gwinnett

Bill Dando

Bill Dando

Leaps of faith are nothing new for Bill Dando.

He’s taken career jumps to follow God’s will, typically heading toward the next move with enthusiasm and without any doubts of the job he left behind. That’s the typical feeling, at least.

Dando’s latest switch — from area director of Fellowship of Christian Athletes Gwinnett to head of FCA Northeast Georgia Golf Outreach — has him feeling atypical.

“I’m excited about (the golf ministry), no doubt,” said Dando, who led Gwinnett’s county-wide FCA program since 2008. “It’s different for me. When I’ve gone on to a new endeavor in the past, I’m usually ready to leave what I was doing. I can’t say I feel that way about this.

“I love Gwinnett County. I love the people I work with. It’s just one of those things where God said I needed to leave.”

The FCA Gwinnett director role will be filled capably by Jorge Vallejo, a former pro soccer player, but Dando will be missed heavily in this area. With help from his assistant Scott Bull, he grew the ministry greatly in the Gwinnett area and helped bring spirituality into the lives of young athletes all over the county.

Dando downplays his role in the accomplishments locally, though it’s tough to ignore what happened under his watch. When he arrived, there were seven “certified” huddles in Gwinnett. Now there are 32.

Dando’s positive energy drummed up that kind of excitement locally among young athletes and the coaches who lead the individual huddles.

“I can’t take any of the credit, you know how the Lord works,” Dando said. “I just wanted the coaches and athletes to know God’s word.”

Dando should feel satisfied that he did an exceptional job with that mission. Local coaches and athletes speak highly of the impact he made here in nearly five years as Gwinnett’s director.

“Bill is a great friend,” said former South Gwinnett, Georgia and NFL quarterback David Greene, who is actively involved in FCA Gwinnett. “Bill’s one of those guys where you’ll probably never meet a more genuine person. He’s a true friend. If you do something right, he’ll pat you on the back. If you need to be whipped into shape, he’ll be honest with you as well. He was such a huge asset for Gwinnett in that FCA ministry role.

“He was really able to build trust and relationships with so many of the coaches and sports directors in the county. We were all disappointed to see him step into a different role but it was something he felt like he was led to do. We were fortunate as a county to have him here. He’s had a big impact.”

I expect the same sort of impact in Dando’s latest mission.

As FCA Northeast Georgia Golf Outreach director, he will work with PGA club professionals and connect them with middle school and high school golf programs. He will coordinate beginner clinics, in addition to running golf camps and golf leagues.

The role is perfect for Dando, who was a PGA golf professional for years before joining FCA.

“Bill has a huge heart for coaches and players and most importantly for his Savior,” said Sports Medicine South director of physical therapy Curt Bazemore, who served with Dando on the FCA Gwinnett board. “He just brought passion to spread the good word through the foundation of sports. I’m excited for him to move into more of a golf ministry, which is just a natural for him. I know he’ll be sorely missed here.”

Dando won’t disappear, though.

He plans to visit local huddles in Gwinnett as much as he can, on top of his regular visits with the many friends he made in the county. Plenty of those connections are in the school system, one of the main beneficiaries of FCA’s impact.

Dando worked heavily with the coaches and adults who serve as mentors for FCA, which is a student-led ministry.

“Bill was behind the scenes, really coaching the coaches and getting kids ready to lead other athletes,” Parkview athletic director Mark Whitley said. “He’s very supportive with his personal time, his personal prayers. … I’ve never known him to not be available. He’s one of the most gentle spirits I’ve ever been around. He’s totally committed and very humble. He built a huge groundwork for us to take it and roll with it from here.”

Will Hammock can be reached via email at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.