2018-10-10 / Front Page

Debbie David Is Citizen Of Year

Debbie David has been named the 2018 Archbold Lions Club Citizen of the Year.– courtesy photo Debbie David has been named the 2018 Archbold Lions Club Citizen of the Year.– courtesy photo Tuesday, Oct. 2, was a busy day for Debbie David, Sauder Village president and chief executive officer.

She had been out of town and was trying to get caught up at work and at home.

She had just settled into a chair to talk via phone with her husband, David David, who was out of town.

“The doorbell rang, and I thought, ‘Well, who is coming to my house at nine o’clock?’

It was a man wearing an Ohio Gas Company uniform shirt.

“I thought, ‘Oh no, do I have a gas leak?’

“So I opened the door and asked, ‘Can I help you?’

“He said, ‘I’m from the Lions Club, and you’ve been chosen to be Citizen of the Year. Will you accept?’

“And I’m like, ‘yes.’ I was blown away. It’s a wonderful honor. I’m very grateful.”

Archbold Girl

Debbie is an Archbold girl who can trace her lineage back to possibly as many as seven generations.

She is the daughter of Maynard Sauder, former Sauder Woodworking CEO, and granddaughter of Erie Sauder, company founder and creator of Sauder Village.

She took over the leadership of the Village from her mother, Carolyn.

Before that, she had a different career.

After graduating from Archbold High School in 1974, she went on to the University of Redlands, Redlands, Calif., and the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Wis., earning degrees in communications disorders.

She spent 20 years in health care, working as a speech pathologist and health care administrator.

She was licensed in California, Ohio, and Texas.

“Traumatic brain injury was my specialty,” she said.

“Rehabilitation services, helping people who had been in car accidents or motorcycle accidents, things like that– get back to work and school and be productive citizens again.

“It was really an exciting and rewarding field. Brain injury rehab was coming into its own in the 80s, when I first was working in that field.”

She worked at the prestigious Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center in Downey, Calif.

“I had some wonderful successes (where) I helped clients and parents journey through” the recovery process, she said.

Comes A Time

But, “You know, there comes a time in your career where you want to continue to learn and have new opportunities in healthcare rehab,” she said.

“There’s a lot of challenges in that field. Being able to provide the services that are needed for all those that need care is a real challenge.”

She returned to Archbold in 2000.

She was grateful “to be able to come back home, make a difference in the community, and build on what my grandfather’s dream was.

“And to know that people are coming here to Sauder Village because they want to come here– they don’t have to come here, like Rancho Los Amigos.

“Here at Sauder Village, people come because they want to come, and together, we can help create good new memories with their family and friends, and also perpetuate and carry on the values that our community holds dear, that my grandfather exposed,” she said.

“Hard work. Persistence. Paying it forward. Believing that everyone is worthy, and working together to run a community and make it a better place.

“A lot of kids don’t have those kind of experiences, those real-world, tangible experiences, that sense that our ancestors and those that went before made the life we have today.

“They’re looking at instant gratification. They’re looking at their phone. Everything is digital, everything is social media. It’s not the real stuff.”

A Plan

After her return, the master planning process for Sauder Village began and has been followed, from the Natives and Newcomers section through the Pioneer village, all the way to the 1920s Main Street and Grime homestead.

“It’s been fun working that plan, and all the while trying to enrich the experiences for all our guests throughout the complex,” she said.

“You know you have a good plan when 16, 17, 18 years later, some of the vision that we had initially is actually still relevant and coming to fruition.”

While her passion is obviously Sauder Village, she has been involved in a variety of other organizations.

“I actually got to follow in (Erie’s) footsteps in another way, in MEDA (Mennonite Economic Development Associates). He was one of the original founders in 1953,” she said.

MEDA uses business principals to alleviate poverty worldwide.

She spent nine years on the board– three as chairman.

Other memberships and activities include being president and a founding board member of the Friends of the Goll Homestead, the first female president of the Archbold Area Chamber of Commerce, and a past board member of the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary.

She’s also been involved with WGTE broadcasting, Archbold Rotary, has been a member of the board of Sauder Woodworking, and was on the steering committee that developed the Fulton County Free Clinic.


She met the man who would become her husband her freshman year at Redlands.

Originally from Ohio, his family moved to San Diego when he was in high school.

“So I met a California boy,” she said.

He graduated from Redlands, then went on to earn a Master’s of Divinity at the Claremont (Calif.) School of Theology.

They married after she graduated from the University of Wisconsin.

They have one daughter, Jessica, who lives and works in Cincinnati.

Debbie described her relationship to Archbold, saying, “I felt really grounded here. I felt like I had a wonderful growing-up time.”

She lived near her grandparents, and visited Sauder Woodworking as a child.

Going to college in California “was a big deal,” she said.

While away her freshman year, her grandmother Leona died, “and that was very impactful for me,” she said.

“I remember her friends at the funeral and the visitation line saying, ‘Oh, you’re the granddaughter that went to California.

“’Your grandma prayed for you every day.’”

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