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

Bob Driscoll gathers people to work together

By Kaye Hult

Bob Driscoll’s work with the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare in Navigation Services furthers his sense of ministry and call to draw people together and help improve people’s lives.

“We’re all in the same sandbox.  I want us to play nice,” he said.  “I want the community to work together to solve its own needs.  What can we do as a community to support one another?”

Bob Driscoll
Throughout his life, Bob Driscoll has gathered people.

As resources and services navigator, Bob connects with families whose needs are not met by the community and government agencies.  Working with people, he develops “durable solutions and stabilization plans” to help prevent child neglect and abuse.

In one instance, Bob found a bike for a man who needed transportation to and from work.  With the bike, he could keep appointments or go to the store to buy milk for his child.  This low-cost solution also improved the man’s health through exercise.  Bob also provided a bike for his child.

Through solutions such as these, he can strengthen a family. 

“I’ll be supportive any way I can,” he said, “even by participating with my own tithes.”

Beyond his job, Bob’s sense of ministry pulls him to connect people in the social service organizations and faith community in North Idaho.  He has created or taken a leadership role in several groups for information-sharing and mutual support, to broaden everyone’s awareness of ways to help people improve their lives.

Bob helps facilitate and participates in several efforts:

• He coordinates the InterAgency Group, which represents more than 300 social service agencies in North Idaho.  Each month one agency makes a presentation about its mission, so the other agencies learn what resources are available for their clients.

• The Christian Community Coalition pulls together faith-based organizations and churches to further Christian outreach on issues affecting the community.  They feed the hungry, work with the homeless, strengthen families and reach out to youth and prisoners.

• The Kitchen Connection gathers people involved with food banks and community meal sites. 

• The Region 1 Homeless Coalition discerns how to relate to and work with the homeless population in North Idaho.  Recently Bob, Ken Gilbert and Frank Genetti initiated a project to build a homeless mission for the area.

Bob is also involved with Family Promise, Elder Help, Kootenai Alliance for Children and Families, the Multidisciplinary Team for Elder Abuse and other organizations that support families.

Anyone who wants to know what fund raisers, trainings or other events are taking place in North Idaho can join his email list.

He reviews the hundreds of posts he sends out each week to be sure each is inclusive, such as offering scholarships so low-income people can attend the event.

From an early age, Bob wanted to learn about all types of people. 

He explored several faith traditions as a youth in Vermillion, S.D.  His father brought him up Methodist.  He participated in the Methodist youth fellowship, the Southern Baptist Church with his girlfriend, the Catholic youth group, Boy Scouts at the Lutheran church and occasionally rode 30 miles to a Jewish synagogue with the local grocery store owner.

By participating in many groups, he has brought groups together to make their lives better.

In high school, he gathered friends to visit a retirement home.  He knew residents enjoyed the visit, because they donned nicer clothes, combed their hair and put on make-up the next time the teens came.

Bob’s education took him from Vermillion to the larger Louisville, Ky., the larger still St. Louis, Mo., and then to New York City.  Each move broadened his understanding of people and the world.

Facing being drafted before he completed a degree, Bob joined the Navy, where he continued to create groups.  He became a racial awareness facilitator to help the Navy improve race relations and help people become aware of each other’s belief systems.

He took training in drug counseling and joined the chaplain reserve to work with sailors hooked on drugs and their families to help them reclaim productive lives.

“If they came to me, they could receive treatment and help, not punishment,” Bob said.

With the Navy, he went to Vietnam, Singapore, Hong Kong and the Philippines, where he experienced other cultures.

“I went ahead of the ship to learn about the culture of the place we were going.  I wrote for the ship newspaper about customs so we could show respect,” he said.

Again, Bob looked for ways to improve people’s lives.  In Manila, he took sailors to visit an orphanage for a day of fun.

Sometimes he learned his assumptions were untrue.

“For example, I thought poor people would be sad, but I saw happy families, even though they did not have anything,” he said.

The Navy Times wrote an article on him because, as a command career counselor, he knew every recruit.  As a result, his 250-member squadron had a greater retention rate than any other.

By the time Bob left the Navy, his focus changed.  He attended Southern California College to study pastoral ministry, biblical studies and psychology.  For one internship, he worked with a suicide hotline and a hospital program called “Someone Cares.”

“I saw folks in the happiest and saddest moments of their lives,” he said.  “I learned about myself and gained appreciation for life, people and God’s miracles.”

Despite pressure to pursue ministry, Bob felt God led him to the U.S. International University, which had students from 93 countries.  He studied business, psychology and education. Bob said classmates from other parts of the world were the elite and provided him with only a partial perspective of their countries.  Even so, he learned to appreciate those different from him who brought different perceptions.

“We were challenged daily about our beliefs,” he said.

In an internship with an Adlerian psychologist, he learned to focus on what is right with someone, rather than what is wrong.

Bob earned doctorates in psychology in marriage and family, and then in clinical psychology.

During his schooling and beyond, he opened counseling centers and clinics.  He was dean for the University of Humanistic Studies in San Diego, Calif., and then became director of psychological services at Desert Hospital in Palm Springs.

In August 1990, Bob lost a foot in a car wreck.  Confined to a hospital for several months, he began to rethink what he wanted to do.

Bob moved to Portland, Ore., for a job that fell through and found work with a family and youth-at-risk program near Lewiston.  It was part of a two-year demonstration grant to assess if community organizations would be more successful if they worked together rather than separately.

When the grant ended, the U.S. government was changing welfare, insisting that persons had to increase their self-reliance to receive assistance.  He stayed in Lewiston another year to educate the community on this new focus.

In 1998, Idaho Health and Welfare recruited Bob to come to Coeur d’Alene.  He worked there until he accepted his current job.

Bob finds his job fits his parameters of helping people “play well together and support each other.”

He encourages people to find more effective ways to accomplish their missions.  He helps them gain self-knowledge and develop tolerance for those different from them. 

“To move forward with our lives, we need to develop natural support systems,” he said.

“People are special and want to feel special,” he said.  “I see lives flourish and improve.  I want to help people move forward to where we can love and support one another.  I want to create a happy healthy community with everyone participating.”

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Copyright © May 2013 - The Fig Tree