David Marvin doesn’t get sick leave or vacation time. He’s frequently called upon to work weekends and, on average, puts in 60 hours of work each week. In short, his job is relentless, time consuming and exhausting.

But the 2010 George Fox graduate is loving every minute of it. “To be honest, I couldn’t see myself in any other field or doing anything else,” he says.

Marvin’s job as a life coach for those with disabilities takes him throughout Yamhill County to meet with clients who need help with basic life skills. They’re faced with challenges ranging from schizophrenia and Down syndrome to Asperger’s syndrome and autism. Marvin picks them up to run errands, try a new activity or teach them a skill or two that helps them become more independent. “Basically, it’s my job to get them to the point where they can do all these things without me,” he says, laughing at the irony.

Marvin, 27, didn’t plan to work with people with disabilities when he enrolled at George Fox. Initially, his plan was to use his degree in Christian ministries to get into youth ministry. But a chance meeting in the gym one day changed the course of his life. “Someone asked me if I would be willing to volunteer for Special Olympics, and at first I wasn’t so sure about the idea,” he recalls. “But I figured I’d give it a try. I volunteered and really hit it off with the guy I was working with. Then his mom asked me if I wanted to continue working with him, and that was it.”

Barbin Doran

A typical outing includes one activity that builds life skills and another just for fun. On this day Marvin and his client, Tim Siler, work on the finer points of grocery shopping, then head out to the archery range for some target practice.

Around the same time, Marvin was enrolled in a Kris Kays counseling class at George Fox that inspired him to pursue a career helping the disadvantaged. “Her class made a huge impact on me,” he says. “She made counseling fun and gave me tools I otherwise wouldn’t have had.” 

These days, Marvin typically works from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. five days a week. His seven clients, ranging in age from 19 to 44, call him “brother” and “best friend.” If one of them acts up at home, Marvin is often the first person a parent will call. “One of the guys punched a hole in the wall, so his mom immediately called me to find out what was going on with him,” he says. “He considers me a big brother, so she figured I’d have insight. I sat and talked with him to find out what was wrong. I’m not a licensed counselor, but counseling is a big part of what I do.” 

The job isn’t without its risks – and humor. One of his clients found it funny to toss firecrackers at him. Another got turned around on the go-kart track at Wilsonville Family Fun Center and sped toward him several times at high speed. But ultimately, it’s seeing individuals overcome obstacles that Marvin finds most rewarding. 

“One guy I worked with wouldn’t even go to the pool. I got him there. Then he put his feet in the hot tub. Then he made it into the shallow end and from there to the deep end. By the time we were done, two years into our relationship, he was swimming to the bottom of the deep end, 10 feet deep.” 

Marvin smiles as he recalls the memory of his friend overcoming his fear of water. “It’s stories like those that make all the long hours worth it – that get me out of bed in the morning.”