If you ask Dave Jacobs to describe what it’s been like to repair and weatherize homes for the past 32 years, his answer may seem more like the reflections of a seasoned archaeologist than someone who works for Spokane County’s community action agency.
While he hasn’t yet encountered dinosaur artifacts or remnants from a bygone century, Jacobs has run into a variety of wildlife and unique settings since starting at SNAP in July 1985 at the age of 18. From raccoons to skunks to snakes, the job has presented unusual hazards. Mix in dark and narrow crawl spaces and the challenges of working in all kinds of weather and it’s clear that Jacobs has set himself in a special category by working in a rigorous field for over three decades.
“It’s not like working in an office,” Jacobs said. “It can be tough. I just remind myself that I’m doing it for the cause and the mission of SNAP. I like helping people.”
Jacobs began at SNAP through the Washington Service Corps program, now part of AmeriCorps. Initially working on a six-month contract, Jacobs found support from two pillars of the agency, Larry Stuckart and Pat Chase, who stepped up to endorse him becoming a full-time employee after the rotation ended. Jacobs recalls Stuckart, the former SNAP CEO who passed away in 2014, being like a father figure.
“Larry was really a mentor to me,” Jacobs said.
A native of St. Louis, Jacobs moved to the Spokane area with his mother when he was 16. He learned a stellar work ethic from an early age, starting his own lawn mowing and raking business as a kid. One summer, he earned nearly $2,000.
“I’ve always worked,” Dave said. “When I started at SNAP, I was green but I figured it out. You have to have patience and keep up or take notes.”
Ron Gaunt, interim SNAP Housing Services co-director, says Jacobs can always be trusted to complete high-quality work and treat customers with respect – regardless of the scenario.
“I never worry about Dave,” Gaunt said. “I’ve never had a single complaint about him, ever. He’s super good with people. When there is a job that is different for whatever reason, I assign Dave. He’s just really good at what he does.”
Jacobs was assigned to install storm windows when he first started. Weatherization is now his specialty although he also does work for SNAP’s essential home repair program. While the responsibilities can be difficult – those with an aversion to spiders and rats need not apply – Jacobs said the rewards of making homes safer and more energy efficient are plentiful.
“I’ve had people who have cried,” he said. “You have senior citizens who are alone and just want someone to talk to.”
When not applying insulation or installing a new window, Dave likes to kayak, fish or work in his yard. Dave and his wife, Mary Ann, will celebrate 21 years of marriage in August. They have two sons, Derek and Devin.
Over the years, Jacobs has dealt with health challenges including heart and knee surgeries. Through it all, he has maintained an optimistic attitude that has a ripple effect on co-workers and clients.
“Dave is consistently good-humored, positive, caring, considerate, generous and compassionate,” said Linda Riddle, SNAP energy efficiency educator and contract specialist. “He just flat will go the extra mile and give of himself to others to make sure what needs done, gets done. He always shows up on time and cares about his work. They don’t make them any better than Dave.”
As Jacobs mentors the next generation of home repair and weatherization workers, his focus remains on the cause he invested in all those years ago.
“At the end of the day, I know I’ve helped someone,” Dave says. “That’s what I tell the guys – ‘These people need help.’ Even though the work is tough, SNAP is a really good cause. We just celebrated 50 years last year and I’d like to see it go for another 50 years or more. I won’t be here then, or maybe I will – you never know.”