Years ago, while Mike Davenport was helping the Kiwanis Club of Richmond spruce up the school grounds at Verde Elementary in North Richmond, he ran into a special someone he hadn’t seen in years — his very first girlfriend — who had gone on to become a kindergarten teacher.
That encounter made quite an impression on Davenport — and it had an equally significant impact on that teacher’s classroom.
The lifelong Richmond resident and owner of locally-based DP Security soon learned the teacher had been digging into her own pocketbook to buy her kids’ school supplies. A heartbroken Davenport decided to “adopt” her class. After meeting all 26 students, he purchased each one a bicycle for Christmas.
“And it caught on,” he said. “When her new class came, I got them bikes. I started giving bikes every year.”
For Davenport, a personal connection — an expression of passion, of love, of commitment — tends to lead to great happenings. Similar to handing out bikes to kids, Davenport has helped to provide hundreds of jobs to fellow community members through DP Security, the security services company he helped launch out of a van, the “rolling office,” in 1996.
During the last 20 years, Davenport, his brother and other family and friends have grown the company to one that has provided security for high-profile clients such as the Chevron Richmond Refinery, the Ford Assembly Plant building and also politicians and dignitaries who visit the region.
As he eyes retirement by year’s end, however, Davenport said he takes more pride in the number of people he has employed than in the size of his client roster. His company has provided work for more than 180 people over the last two decades. Of them, about 80-percent were Richmond area residents, Davenport said.
Some of his hires have had addiction problems or past felony convictions. One particular worker with whom Davenport had developed a strong connection had fallen off the wagon twice.
“I said, ‘I’m going to talk to you one more time,'” Davenport said. “I want to help you, but you got to help yourself. His grandmother came here to personally thank me.”
Today, that worker is a prominent member of a local church.
“He gives back now,” Davenport said.
And that has been Davenport’s method of operation: Get to know fellow community members, help them when necessary, and then watch them help others.
Every time Davenport helps someone, it returns him to those extra special moments at Verde Elementary when he gave bikes to kids.
“It makes me feel so good; when I talk about it I almost cry,” he said. “This one [Verde student] wasn’t there to receive his bike. He didn’t come to school. I put the bike in my pickup, and went to his house. I went in there; there was nothing in there. Milk crates and stuff.”
Davenport dropped off the bike but was deeply affected by his visit to the boy’s home. So he hooked up with the Richmond Police Activities League (RPAL) to provide the boy and his family with toys and a full turkey meal for Thanksgiving.
Once, for a homeless employee whose wife had just given birth, Davenport provided not only a job, but also a crib, diapers, car seat, milk etc.
Davenport isn’t shy about touting the enormous amount of self-satisfaction that comes from helping others.
“It’s just a really good feeling inside,” he said.
Davenport continues to reside in the same Richmond home his father purchased in 1959, which happens to be next door to the DP Security offices. While attending local schools, he held jobs delivering newspapers and learned to be an auto mechanic, starting at age 9 in his first garage.
He would later work for Ford Motor Company in Richmond, starting off by unloading train cars and moving on to becoming an electric forklift mechanic. Meanwhile, he studied to become a Farmers’ Insurance agent, adding, “I’ve worked two jobs most of my life.”
In the 1970s, he helped open and run a pair of nightclubs in Oakland while starting his work in the security field. He said he had an afro so big, he was forced to resign from a security firm because the required hat for his uniform didn’t fit.
After taking a 10-year hiatus from security to become a cross-country trucker, Davenport returned to security in 1996, launching DP Security with his brother Wilburt Davenport, Wilburt’s wife Glenda, and friend Marvin Sheppard.
He credits Richmond Sanitation for taking a chance on his firm, which at the time conducted payroll “right in my van.”
After proving themselves at Richmond Sanitation, the firm netted contracts with the city of Richmond, including for services provided at Point Molate, City Hall, the Richmond Main Library and more.
“Everything started mushrooming,” he said. “I been out there at the Ford Building for I don’t know how long.”
As Davenport’s business thrived, so did his personal contributions to his community. Throughout his career, he has been a member of the RPAL board, president of Kiwanis, a Richmond Main Street Initiative board member, Richmond Chamber of Commerce president, and president of the Black Men and Women political organization.
“If you’re trying and I can help, I’m going to help,” he said. “If you’re willing to do the job, to do what it takes, I don’t give a damn where you’re from or what you look like, I’m going to help.”
Despite Davenport’s upcoming retirement, he said DP Security will continue to operate under the direction of his sons.
He plans to spend his retirement traveling and restoring vintage cars.
“Mike is a true asset to the Richmond community and you won’t find a more giving and generous individual,” said Mark Ayers, chief of emergency services for the Chevron Richmond Refinery. “I wish him all the best in his well-deserved retirement.”