“The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord.” (Psalm 24:1)
Fresh out of university, Lewiston-area native, Dan Mader, started asking a question that would remain unanswered for decades: “Scripture says that all things, including our money, belong to the Lord, but what does that mean? What do I do?” He was born into a family that taught and practiced the art of investing. “My family is a family that just relentlessly invests. That’s what the model was for me, and that’s all I knew and what I did.
“I was pretty well wired for business from day one,” he says. “I approached my dad about starting a business when I was about 12 years old. He was very supportive. We launched a thing, buying some chickens, gathering the eggs, and selling them to my mom. My mom would not buy my eggs. So, I accused her the rest of my life of bankrupting my first business. She said, ‘Well, why would I buy your eggs when you live in my house?’” Dan laughs, recounting his first attempt at building a strategic business, but before long, he was a successful businessman who, today, functions as a managing partner of six businesses, including a wedding venue, a coffee shop, and several commercial properties in Lewiston.
Deep roots in the LC Valley
The Mader family is recognized in many communities across the Inland Northwest, but they claim the Lewiston-Clarkston region (two hours south of Coeur d’Alene) as their home. “My great-grandfather came to the region from Germany,” Dan says. “Family settled in Colfax, then Genessee when he was three. We always came down to Lewiston for church; and in those days, it was on the old Spiral Highway - which we did not love to go up and down. Mom was from Colfax as well, grew up down on the Snake River, and was born in 1928. She can remember when the ‘Indians’ came to the Snake River and set up their camp to do all their fishing. My mom had [native] ladies that wanted to talk to her, thought she was cute, but she was afraid. They made her some little handmade moccasins and gave them to her.”
Dan and his wife Cindi have rooted primarily in Lewiston. In partnership with his brother at first, and then independently, Dan has spent nearly 40 years building and selling businesses, investing, re-investing, and, more recently, consulting. He says, “My primary interest is strategic planning. I like to help organizations align their team to the Purpose and Vision of the organization to meet their potential.” He has enjoyed using the skills God gave him, but says he never forgot the question he’d asked as a new college graduate: “All of this, it’s His money, but what do I do? I did not know how to implement that idea.”
About this time, he and Cindi discovered Dinner Church.
A church for the unchurched
“Back in the early 2000s, Verlon Fosner, a Seattle area pastor, saw his church was dying. He said, ‘I can tell you the day our doors will close.’ And he was right; the church dwindled out like so many others. Out of that, interestingly, he went and completed a PhD. on the early church. He came back, and the Dinner Church is what he came back with.”
The concept of Dinner Church is simple, Dan says: “You put on a free dinner; and it isn’t even expensive, it’s cheap to do. You invite everybody to come. Cindi and I have been going since day one, and our role is to try and connect with the people. Over time you get to know people pretty well and you trade phone numbers with people who are ready to connect.”
Getting to know the homeless
Through Dinner Church, Dan and Cindi quickly became acquainted with Lewiston’s severely underserved homeless population. “We have a guy that used to be homeless, two or three times, and he really loves what we do. He is not homeless anymore, but he is just one of them. He goes out and connects with them. He runs a bus and picks a bunch of them up and brings them.
“The hard part of that is we do not know what to do for them.”
“The hard part of that is we do not know what to do for them.” Dan tears up, recounting specific stories that have broken his heart. “We have no idea what to do for them. All we can do is say, ‘Come with me, sit here,’ and see if we can save a few.”
He adds that the issue, locally, goes beyond homelessness. “I learned from Dinner Church what condition our community is in. A lot of people are all alone; their resources are so limited, their spouse is gone, their kids are gone. They will come to a dinner like this, which is kind of counterintuitive, but they have enough need to show up, eat, and leave.” The Dinner Church community provides an invaluable sense of welcome and acceptance to people who are otherwise all alone, but when it comes to providing a warm place to sleep, critical medical care, or help with addictions, they’re at a loss.
Resources are so limited across the Lewis Clark Valley, that most nights, there is no room in the two small facilities that have shelter beds. Waitlists, cold nights, no-camping ordinances, and zero recovery centers—in addition to the increasing availability of cheap drugs—is exacerbating the plight of those who have already reached the end of their rope. There are a total of 33 shelter beds between Lewiston and Clarkston, and yet more than 200 people were counted in the region’s 2022 Point in Time Count, and 141 were unsheltered.
“But here I am, getting to know these people who need so much care, and it’s ‘I can’t do anything for you; but if I could get you to UGM, they’d know what to do.’”
Dan says his heart has broken for those in his community who have no place to go. “In the story of the Good Samaritan in Scripture, you know how the Good Samaritan goes, ‘Well, I don’t have anything, but I’ll just do what I can.’ He jumped in the ditch, kind of got him cleaned off a bit, bundled him up, put the guy on his donkey, went into town, and went to an inn. He had a place for the guy to lay down and begin to recover. He took care of him for a day, then had to move on. But here I am, getting to know these people who need so much care, and it’s ‘I can’t do anything for you; but if I could get you to UGM, they’d know what to do.’”
The closest UGM for the people in Lewiston and Clarkston is 2 hours away, and many have complex custody or other legal issues that prohibit them from leaving the area.
Union Gospel Mission expands to the LC Valley
In 2019, a group of concerned local leaders who had also seen the need for increased services in the region, reached out to UGM in Spokane, asking us to consider expanding into the LC Valley. After considerable research and prayer, the UGM board voted to take the steps necessary to open a shelter in Lewiston. In 2020, UGM purchased property for the future shelter on Snake River Ave., in 2021, we opened a temporary Thrift Store to establish a presence in the area and connect with the community.
At this time, Dan and Cindi came forward and expressed an interest in investing in the project.
A journey toward generosity
The Maders had just joined a Journey of Generosity (JOG) group. “It was really kind of a life changing event,” Dan told us. “A JOG is a Friday afternoon through Saturday morning. There are eight to twelve people, and we sit around and talk about generosity. There is a little bit of teaching and we have a little book. It’s people who are testing the premise that Jesus talked about when He said, ‘It is pretty cool to have blessing like we have today, but there is something better,’ [paraphrase]. We think giving is good, but Jesus said, ‘No, it is not just good, it is better, better than any of this other stuff,’ [paraphrase].
“All this time, I had been wondering about the end game...”
“The JOG experience, for me, was really a way to change parameters about what I think in terms of the purpose of money. It also answered the question that had been idling along out there since 1980. All this time, I had been wondering about the end game and the Lord said to me, ‘Here is an idea.’ Some of these people have given everything, their whole companies away and all that.”
Dan and Cindi have chosen to pledge a substantial sum toward the construction of the new building. Because of their investment and the investments of all those coming alongside us in this project, by late 2024, there will be a beacon of hope for the men, women, and children battling homelessness and addiction in the valley. It will be a 100-bed, clean-and-sober facility with connections to UGM’s three recovery centers in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene.
“It’s this great dose of hope for our community.”
“It’s not just an investment," Dan says, "it’s what these people need: it’s love, it’s the opportunity for a changed life, it’s this great dose of hope for our community. This has become of primary importance to me. That’s what I can tell you about generosity.”
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
To learn more about the project, view our LC Valley Expansion page or sign up for monthly email updates.