Jake Jacobs, a regular volunteer at our Brooklyn Pines community, moves at an inspiring pace. His gentle, friendly demeanor may be the first thing noticed about him, but it’s his many stories and adventures that stand out. Jake is a welcome reminder of the contagious goodwill that blossoms when one enriches their life through learning and altruism.

Despite his many accomplishments, Jake exudes a humbleness that could perhaps be attributed to growing up in small town near Omaha, Nebraska. It was there that he met his wife and lifelong adventure partner, Pam. They attended the University of Nebraska and wed soon after graduation. Together, they joined the Peace Corps and were stationed in the tropical South Pacific, on the island of Western Samoa (now known as Samoa). Upon returning to the mainland in the mid-1970s, they headed northwest and have called Portland home ever since. They enjoy spending time with their family—two daughters, a son-in-law, and two grandsons.

Over the last ten years, Jake volunteered with Habitat’s Global Village program, traveling to Cambodia, Ethiopia, Jordan, Indonesia, Romania, Guatemala and twice to Argentina.

“When I volunteer on a project,” Jake says, “I feel like I am making a difference.”

In Guatemala, he and his team helped construct a smokeless stove for a partner family—a mom, her children and grandchildren—living together in a small, one-room house with a dirt floor.

According to the World Health Organization, around three billion people across the globe use open fires or barely-contained fires fueled by kerosene or biomass (wood, animal dung, crop waste and coal) to cook their daily meals. These cooking methods, while traditional and accessible, produce high levels of health-damaging air pollutants, leading to the premature deaths of nearly four million people each year. Smokeless stoves are efficient, inexpensive projects that can drastically improve the health of families, especially women and children who traditionally prepare the meals.

“We want to support organizations that consistently and efficiently provide multiple long-term benefits,” Jake says. “Habitat, both locally and internationally, does that. Enabling families to live in affordable housing provides a range of benefits, especially for the kids.”

Working side by side with volunteers and local families in nearly every corner of the earth has given Jake some insight into each community’s unique circumstances. Jake says, “Each [Habitat] affiliate faced unique challenges, but all of them were highly effective in creating affordable homes.”

After retiring from a career in law at McDonalds Jacobs PC, a local CPA firm, Jake says his “want to do” list has expanded in size. At the top of his list is spending quality time with his two young grandsons, auditing classes at Portland State University, studying music, learning an instrument, simple home-building projects, stepping up to two Global Village trips, and continuing to volunteer rebuilding trails and working on wildland restoration projects. With such a busy schedule, Habitat is grateful Jake set aside time to help out on the build site, providing affordable homeownership opportunities to people in need of a decent place to live.

With Habitat, every hand helps build and right now all hands are needed! Help us make progress at our Cully build site; no experience necessary. View and register for volunteer opportunities by visiting

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