Bob Pickel Ending Long Run at LCS Northwest
After a long career, one often thinks of riding off into the sunset. Not Bob Pickel.
“I look at it as a sunrise – the start of a new day.” Bob said. After 25 years as Director of Lutheran Community Services (LCS) Northwest in Klamath Falls, Pickel is calling it a career. His last day will be April 15.
He started working for LCS in January of 1996 with a “handful” of part-time staff in a small three-bedroom house. Today, the Klamath office is home to more than 30 employees who provide a number of community-based behavioral health-related services.
“When I came to Lutheran it felt like I put on a really comfortable pair of shoes,” Pickel said. “There was a match between my values and Lutheran’s values. Work became an extension of who I am.”
Pickel identifies with the LCS mission statement trilogy: health, justice and hope.
Project Changes, LCS’s partnership with Klamath County Schools for behavioral health and prevention services, is still going strong 25 years since Pickel put it together. Mental health counseling, medication management and outpatient drug-treatment services all grew in response to community need.
In his second year, Pickel formed the Hispanic Advisory committee. The committee became an advocate for Klamath’s Latino community, offering scholarships for high-schoolers, and sponsoring the Latino Dancers for children to learn and perform traditional cultural dances.
“It’s about an appreciation for diversity,” Bob said. “We all have a lot to learn from each other.”
In the last year, LCS launched A Family Gathering Place Relief Nursery, a child abuse prevention service that focuses on children from birth to 5 and their families. It took six years of planning to get the relief nursery started. But it was worth it.
Hope is an essential part of the LCS office, as is community service. “The community partnerships, relationships, and friends I’ve made here in Klamath and at LCS are the gifts I will take with me,” Bob said.
Bob grew up in New Jersey, played in a rock band in high school, and took the commuter train to New York City’s Fillmore East to see musicians from the ‘60s perform. He has fond memories of Jeff Beck with Rod Stewart, Clapton and Cream, and Jimi Hendrix.
Bob earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology and met his wife, Rebecca, at Sonoma State University in California. After stops in Greece, Egypt and Cape Cod, they traversed the country in a 1972 VW Van, winding their way to Klamath Falls. Their van needed a few repairs, so Bob found a split-shift job and enrolled in welding classes at Oregon Institute of Technology. They raised their son in Klamath and haven’t looked back.
“What happened was I was a lot better at working with people than welding steel,” he said. “I’m proud of building a workplace where staff enjoy themselves and make a positive difference in people’s lives. We have a nurturing atmosphere here. You can feel it when you walk into this building.”
As for the sunrise, Bob looks forward to carpentry projects, working his green thumb, and reading. He has a passion for writing and ideas for a couple of books. As a singer-songwriter, he’s already playing more guitar and hearing new lyrics. You might just find him performing at the Klamath Falls’ Farmers’ Market.