By Evan Ratke
As an organization, the people of enCircle embody a number of commendable qualities, none the least of which is their ability to adapt to new changes and take on a broad range of projects that serve the needs of their community. The Reverend Debra "Debbie" K. Dukes is one such enCircle member. Through the tectonic shift she has experienced in her career, during her commitment to several community service programs, including more than half a decade on the Board of Directors for enCircle, Reverend Dukes’ passion for supporting others has been consistent.
“I’ve always had a passion for helping people,” Reverend Dukes says. “If I look back on it, I’ve always enjoyed taking care of the least of these.”
As can be expected, Reverend Dukes’ commitment to the Lutheran Church, Lutheran-based organizations, and community service predate her membership on the enCircle Board of Directors.
“I’ve been a minister almost twelve years. I was ordained and started in the ministry in 2008 and I’ve been in New Market, Virginia in the Shenandoah Valley since then, serving at Mount Zion Lutheran Church. I also served on the National Lutheran Communities & Services Board of Directors. Reverend Dukes also had an entirely different career before she was called to ministry.
Reverend Dukes recounts, “I was the Executive Director of the Storm Eye Institute at the Medical University of South Carolina. I traveled nationally as a senior consultant working with academic medical centers all over the country, and subsequently served as an internal consultant to MUSC, reporting to the President, the CEO, and the Dean.”
Throughout her career in the academic medical field, the concept of becoming a minister was not on Reverend Dukes’ radar. Nevertheless, after much discernment, she responded to the call to ordained ministry and left her home, career, and financial stability to attend the seminary.
As challenging as the adjustment has been, it has only empowered Reverend Dukes.
“It’s special. There are certainly things I miss about my old career, but being a minister is life giving in a very special way. It’s hard to describe. I now understand the difference between a calling and a career. It is a humbling responsibility to serve God while caring for and guiding God’s people, and a privilege that I do not take lightly. I am blessed to serve a congregation with a heart for ‘the least of these.’ Our ministry is focused on outreach. We have been blessed to raise over $300,000 for the homeless, hungry, and other community needs far and wide. We come together as a community of Christ, not to be served, but to serve in Jesus’ name.”
It was through those outreach efforts that Mount Zion Lutheran Church was recognized by enCircle with the Hearts and Hands Award. A few years later, Reverend Dukes agreed to serve as a member of the Board of Trustees. Reverend Dukes recounts that serving on the board has been refreshing. “It is so apparent that the professional leadership and skilled staff care deeply for one another and for those that they serve. It is inspiring to contribute to something that matters and makes a difference in the world, and enCircle does just that.”
Reverend Dukes has a Bachelor of Arts and a Masters of Divinity. She has held positions on the board of trustees for National Lutheran Community Services and the Commission for Forensic Domestic Violence. Reverend Dukes has been recognized for her volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity and has also served as a summer camp chaplain for youth with disabilities. She currently serves as Pastor of Mount Zion Lutheran Church, in New Market, Virginia.
Her unique combination of social ministry and executive business leadership has and continues to contribute to the depth and success of enCircle