June 2001

The Man for the Mission
Reverend Robert O. Timberlake

by Eric Kreller

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Reverend Robert O. Timberlake, 57 years young, has no desire to end his reign as a "champion for the homeless for over 30 years" anytime soon. In fact, Timberlake, also known as "Pastor Bob," is heading into yet another chapter of his life as he reprises his work with the Buffalo City Mission. You may remember Timberlake from when he served as the Mission's executive director from 1977 to 1986, when he raised over two million dollars to construct the Mission building as we know it today, or maybe from simply seeing or hearing about him in the media.

After almost 15 years, Timberlake is joyfully returning to the Mission to once again concentrate his efforts on providing a caring hand for Buffalo's less fortunate. In his new role as senior development officer, Timberlake brings with him philanthropic experience spanning almost four decades. During which time he has raised a total of $75 million, traveled two continents and touched thousands of lives.

Pastor Bob's main focus at the Mission will be to raise public awareness concerning the homeless situation in Buffalo, and he looks forward to speaking about the work of the Mission to as many people as possible. In fact, Timberlake is even temporarily staying at the Mission until he and his wife close on their home so that he can truly reconnect with the people that he feels need his help the most. He will then start his rounds throughout the community speaking at churches, service clubs, schools, camps and any other outlet he can find, to anyone who will listen, in order to raise funds for the Mission.

"It's great to be back in Buffalo," Timberlake said. "I am so happy that I get to continue my work in the same city that has treated me so well in the past. I'm here to help, teach and simply talk to people about the Mission. It's amazing how much people will do for you if you simply tell them what's going on and then ask them if they can help."

Although Pastor Bob certainly has a serious side when it comes to raising money and accomplishing even the largest of tasks, he is also well known for his softer side. He is a jolly man, big and loveable, kind of like a teddy bear and has an undeniable knack of relating to everyone, especially children. As a self-professed storyteller, he has decided to take every July and August off so that he can speak at children's camps throughout the nation. He is booked in Maine for eight weeks this summer.

"He's always on the go," Timberlake's wife, Suzanne, notes. "It's like I have to stop him and say, 'Slow down! There are enough hours in the day to get what you want done!' There's always something brewing in his mind, some new thought on how he can help care for people. He's a caregiver, it's just in his nature."

Through Pastor Bob we learn that everybody has a story to tell—here's a little of his. Timberlake began his career in 1965 as a missionary in Bangladesh, which is located east of India. Three years later he returned from his overseas adventure to begin a twelve-year stint serving as the executive director for missions in New Jersey and Indiana. From 1977 to 1986 he left his indelible mark on WNY during his time spent with the Buffalo City Mission. By raising the operating budget to almost $1 million, he oversaw the creation and expansion of numerous Mission services. In 1987, Bob became the president and CEO of the Open Door Mission located in Omaha, Nebraska and, in 1990, established Lydia House, an organization that assists women and children who are victims of domestic abuse.

"Now he's finally back in Buffalo," Tom McLaughlin, executive director of the Buffalo City Mission, said. "I know that people will respond to him in the same way they did 15 years ago. He makes himself available to anybody, and is always willing to listen and try to help. He's seen and done a lot in his years, and he relates those experiences to his work."

With age comes change. This change offers opportunities and Pastor Bob hasn't let one slip by. He has harnessed modern methods by bringing the message of his work to the masses through the use of multimedia. Currently operating a Web site and increasing public visibility through television and newspapers, Timberlake has also hosted two radio shows, an additional Web site and a phone-based gospel line focusing on children during his time in Omaha. In the future, Timberlake hopes to create even more of a presence for the Buffalo City Mission.

Through it all, Timberlake is a man who's work will resonate for years to come, truly making him forever young and active.

If you would like more information on Pastor Bob or the Buffalo City Mission, you can contact him at (716) 854-8181, ext. 210, or visit him on the Internet at www.UncleBob.org.

Eric Kreller is an Assistant Account Executive with Eric Mower & Associates.


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