D’Arcy Chapman was recently honored by Advent Christian Village for 35 years of dedicated employment. D’Arcy, his wife, Robbin, and their two oldest sons moved to Dowling Park the last week of October in 1982. According to the Chapmans, much has changed at Advent Christian Village since then.
Prior to moving to Florida in 1982, D’Arcy was working as a youth minister in Benson, NC. Ron Thomas, director of ACV’s children’s program at the time, called the Chapmans and asked them to come to Dowling Park to work as house parents. Both D’Arcy and Robbin were very familiar with Advent Christian Village; both had worked at ACV during college spring breaks. At first, the Chapmans declined the invitation — but after praying about it, they ultimately said yes. They packed up their family, including 10-month-old Stephen and six-week-old Kevin. Their youngest, Andrew, was born about a year and a half later.
When the Chapmans first arrived in Dowling Park, they stayed at the brand new Village Lodge in the Village Square, which was still under construction. According to D’Arcy, today’s Village Grocer was just a large, empty room and didn’t open for business for another year. The Merry Morsel (now the Village Café) wasn’t open yet, either. He remembers teaching ACV President Pomeroy Carter’s son Chris how to cook omelets on the grill in the new restaurant’s kitchen.
The Chapmans admit that working as house parents was an incredibly challenging job. The children living at ACV at that time were foster children with many needs. D’Arcy worked full time in residential treatment as one of two “Dads” while Robbin worked days as a teacher at ACV’s SPRINT school for the children living there, and as one of two “Moms” the rest of the time.
During this time, the ACV staff was much smaller, and several young couples moved to the area at the same time. These couples spent a lot of time together, supporting each other and socializing with each other.
At that time, the nearest fire station was in Live Oak, a 20-minute drive. A children’s cottage had burned to the ground a few years earlier, and though no one was hurt in the blaze, ACV implemented several precautions to keep such a loss from happening again. Consequently, every male employee became a volunteer firefighter, including D’Arcy. More recently, he has even earned his certification as a Florida firefighter.
Over the next few years, Robbin not only cared for her own boys and the Village children, she also taught full time and earned two master’s degrees from FSU. D’Arcy worked very hard as “Mr. Mom,” and Robbin graduated in 1988 with degrees in exceptional student education and learning disabilities with the help of the Forward Fund, a scholarship still available to ACV employees today.
In 1990, the SPRINT school closed and the children’s program underwent major modifications due to changes in public policy. Robbin had already taken a job as a public school teacher, and D’Arcy became an independent living case manager at ACV.
After Good Samaritan Center (GSC), ACV’s current nursing home, was built, D’Arcy worked various jobs there, including case manager, care coordinator and admissions coordinator over the next two to three years. He eventually worked more than 16 years in social services, before transferring back to independent living social services, where he still works today as a service coordinator. And Robbin is a fifth grade teacher in Suwannee County, a position she has held for many years.
Robbin and D’Arcy enjoy reminiscing about everything that has changed over the past 35 years at Advent Christian Village. Much of the physical landscape has changed, of course. When they came to work at ACV during college, Myrtle Carter Nursing Home stood where Carter House now stands. When they moved here, there was no Good Samaritan Center, no Copeland Medical Center and no Carter Village Hall. River Woods neighborhood was a hay field used to feed ACV’s farm animals. D’Arcy used to help with the farm, which included horses, cows and pigs; and Robbin remembers painting the barn red during one of her college spring breaks.
D’Arcy helped build the current Wee Care building during one of his college spring break trips. Wee Care started in another building in the 80s and the Chapman boys were some of the first kids served.
While many things have changed over the years, the most important aspects of Advent Christian Village — its commitment to ministry, its desire for quality and its dedication to serving the Lord — have not changed. For more than a century, ACV has been a place people enjoy living and working, and it’s in large part due to selfless and dedicated employees like D’Arcy Chapman.