In 1974, crop-duster Bob Howe flew his plane into a power line while flying low over fields. Miraculously, he and his plane came through unharmed.
In 2004, surgeons operated on Bob. Inside his abdomen the doctors found gangrene. Praying that day, he pleaded, “Please Lord either take me home now or give me ten more years.
Bob Howe has been a crop-duster for 46 years. Born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, he grew up on a dairy farm. He purchased his own plane at age 14. His love for flying brought him to Indiantown, Florida where he and his wife, Paula, raised three sons. Today, Bob Howe is 69; he lives his life each day, with purpose—honoring God and helping others.
As a member of Treasure Coast Toastmasters in South Florida, he has put his competent communicator’s knowledge and his leadership skills to work within prison walls.
For 30 years, he has been involved in prison ministry. Currently, Bob facilitates the Toastmasters “Gavel Club” at the Florida State Prison in Pahokee. Of those who go through the Toastmasters program, 90 percent do not return to prison. Currently, the rate of recidivism being between 43 percent and 50 percent in Florida.
What makes the difference?
Ice Breakers sometimes run longer, at 15 minutes, as men tell what they did that put them behind bars.
Respect is key. The president is referred to as “Mr. President” at all times.
Bob takes time to talk with each man in the program, asking him, “What’s in your toolbox when you get out? A GED? A commercial driver’s license? The good Lord? If you don’t have the good Lord in your toolbox, you’ll be coming back.”
Most of the inmates are young men, between 20 and 40 years old and have little formal education. Mentally, Bob Howe helps prepare the men; he asks them, “What are you going to do when you leave prison?”
When a released inmate asks a potential employer for a job, he knows that he has a record. Bob encourages the men to tell the employer, “This is what I accomplished while in prison…” demonstrating positive change. He also speaks with the men about “giving back” by helping others who are in prison as Bob himself does.
Bob Howe, a true leader, is also unafraid to speak up for others:
One Sunday at his church, Bob saw a photo of children in Nicaragua, at a dump, eating out of the back of a garbage truck.
That picture turned Bob Howe’s heart toward those children.
It is estimated “that in some areas of Nicaragua, about 23 percent of children under the age of 5 suffer from chronic malnutrition.” (The World Food Program)
He has made 14 trips to the dumps of Nicaragua. With the help of others, he and a few other men from his church have fed over 300,000 children.
The dump is the resting place for dead animals, toxins, and chemicals. Poisonous fumes rise into the air.
Bob Howe states that because of hunger, children are dropped off at the dump to search for food while their parents go to work. Many live in the dump, unwanted and homeless.
Bob Howe has also helped a sick woman living in the dump named Ximora. She has received medical care and a small home has been built for her. In return, she is now the one feeding beans and rice to the homeless children.
Mr. Howe also helps needy children in his own town. Each year at Christmas, children are taken to Wal-Mart to shop. Some of these kids have never had any new clothing.
Recently, Bob Howe opened up a charitable organization “Loving God’s Abandoned Children,” which will be for needy children anywhere. Bob Howe is not rich, but he is a man of God, and the Lord has used him in many ways, because, he is willing.
This is the work of one man—in his spare time. Bob Howe has made a commitment to these ministries, and this is what has made them successful.
His work touches lives—lives that otherwise could have sunk into despair and death. His work has lowered the crime rate. He work has touched others in the name of the good Lord.
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© 2015 "Hometown Heroes" Kelly Jadon