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Search The Fig Tree's stories of people who make a difference:

Retiree solves problems as a volunteer

By Kaye Hult

When Ken Gilbert retired in 2011 from a career in the computer business and marketing in California, he and his wife Maureen moved to the Coeur d’Alene area, which they discovered on visits to the area when their daughter was a student at Whitworth University.

Ken Gilbert

Ken Gilbert retired to Coeur d’Alene to serve. 
Photo by Kaye Hult

Ken, who was involved in problem-solving with ministries in the San Francisco Bay area, sought involvements here that would fulfill his passion to serve people who are down and out.

He visited organizations like the InterAgency Group, the Christian Community Coalition, the Region 1 Homeless Coalition, the 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness and the Kitchen Connection.  He met Bob Driscoll of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare (DHW), Carolyn Shewfelt of the Community Action Partnership and Sherry Wallis of the Post Falls Food Bank.

He learned that some people have no car or gas money to travel to meal sites and food banks.  Some are home bound and need food delivered.

To meet the needs, Ken and Maureen formed Shepherd’s Table, which he called “our little niche of the community’s food banks.” 

The Shepherd’s Table’s mission is to “provide food in Jesus’ name for Kootenai County people who are having difficulty making ends meet.”

In 2012, it served 90 households with 116 children.  Through May 28 in 2013, it served 68 households with 110 adults and 71 children.

Just providing food for people does not fulfill Ken’s call. 

“My goal is to go to where people are, and to help beyond their need for food,” he said.

Last year, he helped a woman with children on the run from an abusive relationship. 

“Her church found her an empty trailer and she cleaned it up,” Ken said.  “We arranged for a store to donate a carpet and found someone to install it.  We learned the city had turned the water off, so we asked DHW to have the city to turn it back on.”

This year, he began to work with a young man who appeared to be agoraphobic, afraid of public places.  He would not leave his home.  Ken would go and talk to him.  He asked him if he had a warm coat and warm clothing.  The young man said no.  After Ken provided him with clothes, he began going out.

Fresh Start provided the young man with a bike, so Ken told him about nearby food banks.  He printed directions to meal sites that were close.  He has not heard from the young man since.

“It takes a personal touch,” Ken said.  “People don’t always let me in, but when they do, I find ways to help.”

Beginning in college, he has found ways to help solve problems, working in the newly burgeoning computer field.

He spent his early years in New York City and on Long Island, before going to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in upstate New York.  He worked three summers in college for Goddard Institute for Space Studies. 

Ken did programming for scientists on staff.  Before the Internet, he worked on mainframe computers, number crunching to analyze solar flares. 

In college before computer sciences had a department, he worked for the math department’s computer program, debugging programming language.

After earning a bachelor of science in mathematics with a minor in electrical engineering, Ken worked with IBM and technology companies such as Intel and Apple.  He helped simplify and speed up the process for computer programming and networks.  He worked with Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Bob Metcalf—the inventor of Ethernet.

Realizing he had more than technical skills, Ken created software programs.  Understanding people who used technology, he moved into marketing.

At Apple, Ken ran the Giveaway Program, providing computers to schools.

Creating Ken Gilbert & Associates, he worked for himself for 12 years, helping with start-ups, marketing and business development.  He watched the development of Silicon Valley from orchards to buildings. 

When Ken was almost 45, a friend asked if he knew Jesus was the Messiah.  Jewish by birth and the grandson of a rabbi, Ken said this was impossible.   Seeking to prove Jesus was not the Messiah he began a six-month study of the Bible, comparing the Old Testament and New Testament. 

Visiting the friend’s church one Sunday in 1990, Ken experienced a revelation and has been a believer since, “seeking to serve Jesus.”  Maureen followed a similar faith journey.

In San Jose, he began volunteering for the City Team Ministries, helping solve problems and develop programs with homeless people, teens and families. 

Mentoring, counseling and leading Bible studies, he started a Shepherd’s Table there. 

“God put the move to Idaho in our path,” said Ken.

He and Maureen started Shepherd’s Table in Coeur d’Alene as a way to live out the gospel calling to help others.  He has also joined the board of the Christian Community Coalition to address community needs.

Looking for holes to fill in serving the homeless, Ken saw no year-round entry point for shelter and meals.  Two emergency shelters are open just 50 nights in the winter.

Recently, he gathered people to set up a homeless mission that will help people put their lives back together by addressing three stages to the process: helping stabilize participants with drug, alcohol, and mental issues; giving them life and job skills training, and helping them find jobs and permanent housing.  He envisions walking with clients through every step. 

“This is a community effort,” he said.  “It will use people, agencies and programs already in place to meet goals of the three stages.  We will show Christ’s love, and if clients are interested, we will share the gospel.

For information, call 208-964-4144 or email

Copyright © June 2013 - The Fig Tree