Dan Ovalle, pastor at First Church of Christ in Bradford

Editor’s note: Don Toothaker of Haverhill is a photographer who uses his skills to capture images of people and places in the city. He shoots them in black and white to highlight their essence. He regularly contributes a photo and accompanying story to the Gazette.

Haverhill, through vision and commitment, is once again gaining recognition as an exciting place to be.

Old buildings are being renovated and businesses are growing, but, just like any other place, Haverhill is only as good as the people who live and work here. In the following months, I will be introducing myself, and you, to people who influence the growth of Haverhill. We have a proud history here but, more importantly, we have a very bright future. The key to Haverhill’s success is, and always will be, people.

Fourteen years ago, Danny Ovalle came to Haverhill to start a new chapter in his life. Now he is poised to become one of Haverhill’s brightest community leaders. He was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and raised in the projects of Chelsea, but it is in Haverhill that he has created a home for himself, his wife, Cyndi, and their two beautiful girls.

Ovalle is many things. He is a husband, a father, a son, a brother, an uncle, and a full-time employee of the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission. He is also a friend, in the truest sense of the word, and an inspiring voice to many. With a schedule that would exhaust most, Ovalle manages to not only excel in his many endeavors, but, most significantly, he is fully present in all of them. For energy and purpose, he relies on his faith to guide him.

Many years ago on a rainy day in Boston, Ovalle accepted a new calling in his life. Inspired by the voice of another, he found his Christian faith. That faith has become the cornerstone of all he is and does. If you know Ovalle, then you can appreciate that this call to faith was his destiny. Just as some are meant to be teachers or doctors, he was meant to be a caretaker and voice of the gospel. If you do not know him, then I encourage you to meet him and share conversation. You will find him to be warm, engaging and sincere in every regard.

Faith and religion are not always the easiest or most welcome of conversations. For many of us, including myself, faith is often an ideal that remains constantly challenged. However, no one can make you feel more comfortable with your faith, or his, than Ovalle.

Two years ago, Ovalle became the pastor of the First Church of Christ in Bradford. The job title says “part time,’’ but sharing the gospel is a full-time calling for him. The church has overlooked Bradford Common for more than 300 years. As in many churches, the congregation has shrunk over time, but Ovalle’s presence offers renewed hope and opportunity for the future. All who enter the church are greeted with the warmth and sincerity of a family. I know this first hand.

With great enthusiasm Ovalle guides the congregation, but his presence is felt well beyond the walls of the church. Ever driven by his personal mission, he often collaborates with other church leaders to infuse our neighborhoods with a sense of community and peace. Simply put, Ovalle makes Haverhill a better place for our families and our children. Take a peek at what is happening with him and the church at www.fccbradford.org.

As a photographer I seek light. Light comes in many forms and colors. It illuminates, offers warmth and gives clarity. Through light, I find enlightenment. On occasion, light even comes in the form of a human being. Danny Ovalle is light.

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