Bob Baker has given millions to Catholic, veteran and homeless outreach groups
San Diego Union Tribune
Feb. 1, 2016
From ninth grade, his dream was to become a Catholic priest, but sons from divorced families weren’t allowed to enter the priesthood. Instead, right after high school in 1951, he and two buddies enlisted in the Army to fight in the Korean War. During his service overseas, Baker went on 27 night patrols, earned two Bronze Stars and avoided getting shot or killed on at least seven occasions.Sixty-three years ago, Bob Baker was a young Army corporal stationed at Outpost Harry during the Korean War when he embarked on what his commanders warned would be a suicide mission. When he ended up in the middle of a minefield during the night patrol for Chinese soldiers, he decided it was a good time to make a deal with God.
Bob Baker, founder of the Bob Baker Auto Group, is especially interested in helping veterans reintegrate into society. — Howard Lipin“I told him, if he spared me that night, I would go home, get married, have six children, become a success and do whatever he wanted me to do,” Baker said. “With all the millions of dollars I’ve given away over the years, I believe that’s what God wanted me to do.”
During the past 10 years, the founder of San Diego’s Bob Baker Auto Group has donated from $500,000 to $1.7 million a year for projects that have included Catholic churches and schools, programs for military veterans and underwriting for Solutions for Change, a nonprofit that helps get North County homeless families off the streets.
Baker, 84, said he’s drawn to causes where he feels a personal connection. The Rancho Santa Fe resident was homeless as a boy, his faith saw him through years of hardship, and he witnessed the horrors of war and knows how it can impact veterans trying to reintegrate into society.
“Bob is a hands-on kind of donor,” said Chris Megison, founding president for Solutions for Change in Vista. “A lot of philanthropists will want to see our audited financial statements and study our plans, but Bob is the kind of philanthropist who wants to get in the car with me and drive out to see what we’re doing firsthand.”
He discovered the Solutions for Change charity in 2013 and has since become one if its champions. Most recently, he signed on as title sponsor for its 2015 gala, which honored military veterans. He said he was drawn to the cause because the Vista nonprofit helps find homes for the families of veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and addictions.
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