From supplying water pump bicycles to undeveloped countries to empowering impoverished women and orphans, Bob Pagett, the founding president of Scotts Valley-based Assist International, learned about giving at an early age.
His parents had a big influence on him by opening up their home to the needy. Helping others was his family’s way of life.
“This was my first exposure to the poor,” Pagett said. “I remember asking, ‘Why do so many hobos come over for lunch?’”
His mother would reply, “It’s because we may be entertaining angels unaware.”
“I later learned that they’d made a mark on our garage door saying that the needy were welcome here,” Pagett said.
Born on Dec. 3, 1938, Pagett was raised in Grand Junction, Colo., along with his twin sister, Betty, and an older brother, Darrel, who is deceased. Pagett attended Seattle Pacific University and majored in history.
Pagett married Charlene Carmichael in 1957. They had two daughters, Michelle and Cheri, and went on to earn a degree in theology from Bethany College in 1959.
The family moved to Oregon, where Pagett found a job working for the Assemblies of God as the state youth and education director. He took children all over the world to be involved in mission projects.
The family moved to Scotts Valley in 1974, and Pagett served as pastor of Christian Life Center in Santa Cruz for 17 years.
Then, when the walls came down in Eastern Europe, signaling the end of the Cold War, he resigned. A new spark had been kindled to help the poor and needy around the world, and he co-founded Assist International with Charlene.
“Assist International is a nonprofit, humanitarian organization that saves lives and changes the destiny of the world's most vulnerable people,” Pagett said. “We give people the tools to change their own lives. Our main focus is to give orphans a sense of hope and a future by building family-style orphan villages where these children have both a mother and a father figure in their lives.”
For more than two decades, Assist has helped corporations, service clubs, churches and individuals make a difference. Working with such partners, the Scotts Valley-based organization has completed hundreds of projects in more than 60 nations.
“Assist has grown far more than we ever expected,” Pagett said. “We now have 14 employees, hundreds of volunteers and a 24,000-square-foot distribution center in Ripon.”
Other outreach projects of the nonprofit include advanced medical care. Assist provides and installs lifesaving equipment to teaching and referral hospitals in developing countries and provide the necessary training.
In order to accomplish this, Assist partners with local medical facilities — Salinas Valley Memorial Health Care System and Stanford University Hospital — in addition to working with Phillips and GE.
Along with caring for needy children and the critically ill, Assist provides education and training to women. By learning marketable skills, such as sewing and making jewelry, they can sell their goods in the U.S. and earn money for their families.
These days, Assist is working on a venture called Project 41 that will help countries access and store more drinking water. One of the organization’s volunteers developed a water pump powered by a bicycle that produces 50 gallons of water each minute, or 100 gallons per minute if a motorcycle engine is used. As a result, some farmers are able to triple their crop output and make a living.
“We hope to provide over 2,000 water bicycle pumps to various countries in Africa in 2013,” Pagett said. “We also have an upcoming medical project in South Sudan and an X-ray project, sponsored by the Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz Rotary Club, at Westmont Bethal Hospital in Guatemala City, (Guatemala). And helping orphans continues to be a priority for us.”
Although he has won numerous awards and received national recognition, Pagett doesn't have room for pride.
“We're here to celebrate the many volunteers who give their time and go to dangerous places to help humanity,” he said. “Assist has two mottos: We are as good as our last project, and we're as good as those who we surround ourselves with.”
To donate or become involved in Assist International, visit www.assistinternational.org.
- Sandi Olson of Scotts Valley is a writer, speaker and teacher. She writes about interesting people in Scotts Valley and the San Lorenzo Valley. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.