After a long career spent as a doctor practicing internal medicine in Gresham, Bob Bailey’s retirement was right around the corner. He remembered chatting with a patient about Habitat for Humanity and how this person was learning new skills as a Habitat volunteer. He decided to give it a try, saying “I wanted to get out of the office, get more exercise, meet people and still be useful to my neighbors.” A year later Dr. Bob, as he’s nicknamed on the build site, volunteers regularly helping wrap up the last three homes at Habitat’s Helensview build site in Portland’s vibrant Cully neighborhood.
Many years spent caring for patients has given Bob insight into what makes healthy communities: he says, “two crucial issues need to be addressed: the need for good food and the need for adequate housing.” Marla, Bob’s wife of 45 years, helps to alleviate hunger in Oregon as a dedicated volunteer with the Oregon Food Bank. Bob decided to lend his hand to the latter, helping build homes that will be purchased with an affordable mortgage. Together, they address two issues that are intrinsically linked: food insecurity and housing.
“Children who are raised in these homes have fewer chronic health issues and a very high graduation rate from secondary school.”
Friendly and gentle with a big smile, Bob jokes that on the build site he is an “other-ender”, meaning he holds the other end of the board for someone who knows what they’re doing. Despite possessing little prior experience in construction beyond a self-proclaimed rudimentary knowledge of power tools, Bob has already learned a lot.
“Our supervisors really know what they are doing and are great teachers, emphasizing safety first and then quality. Most of the regular volunteers are skilled in various aspects of construction as well.”
Bob grew up in Island City, a small town outside of La Grande in eastern Oregon. In 1980, he and his wife Marla moved to Portland so Bob could attend medical school at Oregon Health and Science University. After a residency at Good Samaritan Hospital, Bob practiced internal medicine in Gresham until his retirement in 2016. Bob and Marla have been married for an incredible 45 years and have two children and three grandchildren. They recently returned from a trip to Peru, where they trekked to nearly 8,000 feet to visit the mysterious splendor of Machu Picchu. In the future, he’d love to join an international Global Village volunteer trip with Habitat, maybe with his tight-knit crew of Thursday regulars.
“I love the team spirit that comes from being one of the “Thursday Regulars” and I always feel great at the end of the day. You can look over your shoulder and say, “Yeah, I did that.”