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9 Who Care: Bob Clark and the work of using all your skills

Bob Clark, of Cedar Rapids, has a lengthy list of volunteering, from rewiring houses after the...
Bob Clark, of Cedar Rapids, has a lengthy list of volunteering, from rewiring houses after the Flood of 2008 to building accessibility wraps to helping older people understand Medicare options.(KCRG)
Published: Feb. 19, 2018 at 7:23 AM CST
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Bob Clark retired from Rockwell Collins ten years ago but his daily workload was not about to ebb off too much.

An electrical engineer by trade, Bob was set to step into a calling for those who can find challenges in steps.

“I had a short list and, in fact, WRAP, was one of the things that was on my list to do,” said Clark. WRAP stands for the Wheelchair Ramp Accessibility Program, a group with UnityPoint Health – St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids for exactly that. Volunteers who build ramps to help people with easier access in and out of home.

Only the Flood of 2008 derailed those plans.

“I started working with the volunteer electricians and some of them are still doing that work around town,” said Clark. That work is what came to be known as “Old Fart Electric”, a group of retired electricians and electrical engineers who spent two hours in the flood zones of Cedar Rapids. Before these water-logged properties could get the heat back on, the homes needed power. Bob was part of this brigade with, perhaps, an unartful name but a purpose and a legacy that bordered on heroic.

“A lot of people were suffering a lot after that flood and didn’t have a lot of resources and needed help,” said Clark, a Vietnam veteran who serves in the U.S. Navy. “It was an easy decision to do that work. I did that electrical work for three years and it was like a full-time job, 35-40 hours.”

As the people returned to the houses and the power followed, Bob Clark was finally able to start the work with WRAP. We walked about a home on the city’s west side that he, and other volunteers, spent six hours on a Saturday building.

“It’s not a big commitment,” said Clark. “You’re just going to help build the ramps, it’s four to six hours of commitment. Not a huge amount of commitment. People are so appreciative of the work that we do. It, literally, releases them to carry on a lifestyle when they were more mobile. Not being able to get up or down stairs is a huge problem for a lot of people. Installing these ramps helps get them out of the house.”

Angie Ehle, the WRAP coordinator, said about 45 volunteers, in total, work with the group – a tally that includes builders and engineers.

“Bob is amazing,” said Ehle. “He gives of himself and understands the importance of volunteering. Using the time and talents to better our community. He is a champion for volunteering and WRAP is blessed because, when he’s not out building ramps with us, he’s working with his church and his community.”

When he is not working in the elements, Bob can often be inside St. Luke’s Hospital in the SHIIP offices, near the main entrance.

“Senior Health Insurance Information Program,” Clark said about the state-run program. “We help seniors navigate through Medicare. This is another group that I got tied in through Rockwell Collins Retired Volunteers. We help people with their drug plans during open enrollment. We saw over 1,000 clients choose the correct drug plan.”

Bob Clark’s life is a life in full, as a father and veteran building a career and, now, a man serving others with his skills, knowledge and compassion. He said the programs to help are in there. But the first step to be involved has to come from the person pondering stepping across the line to help.

“A lot of companies have retiree organizations and Rockwell has one,” said Clark. “You need to take it upon yourself to find those, and search those out and they will help you find the things that fit your lifestyle and your ‘likes’ to do.”