I am glad to hear about your interest in ApacheDS and your wish to contribute.
Let me answer some of your questions inline ...
So, I have never contributed / commited to any open source project.
I am looking to possibly make some additions to Apache DS. I see that I need to use my svn cilent to make a patch an submit that as a 'contributor' to a 'commiter' that will review and submit the changes.
My question is: Where does that get sent? Does that go to a particular mail address(individual), or to the dev list?
I did not see the last step anywhere -- or I missed it reading over the general Apache stuff. Perhaps its individual per Apache project?