Cruise ships in Port of Miami

Bob Dickinson: Voyage of Mercy

Caring for those in need is to consider others of more importance than ourselves even though they may never be able to repay the kindness.

Jesus taught us many things that linger in most hearts today; to be kind, compassionate, and to love one another. One teaching many people know is Matthew 6:21, “Where your heart is, there will your treasure be also.” Another is Mark 8:36, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world but lose his own soul?” Such relevant statements fit any age and are worthy of patterning a life after.

The very successful former CEO of the world’s largest cruise ship line strives daily to live these ideals. He is often quoted on how one never sees a Brink’s truck at a funeral. He knows acquired wealth is not something to be hoarded; instead, one’s treasure is to be put to better use rescuing the less fortunate; people who have fallen into homelessness and need a way back.

Bob Dickinson, Miami’s innovative philanthropist and renowned wine aficionado is that man. And just like he revolutionized the cruise ship industry, he has now steered his talents toward meeting the needs of the most unfortunate among us.

From Captain of Business to Angel of Mercy

A devout Christian, Dickinson began his career with degrees from Duquesne and John Carroll Universities. He quickly rose in the corporate ranks, finally landing on the coveted perch of Carnival Cruise Lines CEO. Here, he was nothing less than a transformational figure, changing the industry focus from port-of-call to the ships themselves. These “fun ships” also became the main focus of travel agents who, until then, focused solely on airline flights for their commissions.

Maiden Voyage of Philanthropy

This redirection of energies for greater effectiveness is something Dickinson would soon deploy again for an entirely different and meaningful purpose. While CEO at Carnival, the mayor of Miami asked Dickinson to get involved with the task of financing housing projects for homeless families. Applying his business mind on this project was both a labor of Christian love and a soulful experience. Seeing real families move into the housing opened his heart to a new focus for his life.

The Noble Task of Human Dignity

Upon Dickinson’s retirement from Carnival Cruise Lines in 2007, he began working with the local charity Camillus House, serving the homeless in Miami-Dade County. It was this worthy effort that would occupy his talents and efforts until 2015 when then-Governor Rick Scott appointed him CEO of this vital facility.

The Door to Hope

Camillus House, founded in 1960 by the Little Brothers of the Good Shepherd, was initially opened to assist the influx of Cuban refugees needing nightly shelter. It expanded services to the broader population of homeless in Miami and has served them continuously for 50 years, providing housing and food assistance and in later years job training, job placement, permanent housing assistance, and health services.


No Soul Left Behind

Based on the fundamental Christian tenet that every life is precious to God and worthy of saving, Camillus House under Dickinson’s leadership expanded services to fit every need of the poor and homeless. From job training workshops to drug counseling and even postal and pharmacy services, Camillus House has become a homeport to the thousands they’ve assisted. And they are still considered precious clients long after they transition from homeless to helped.

Ending Need. Period.

Camillus House inspired Dickinson to set for himself a lofty goal: ending homelessness in Miami for good. His business acumen now had a spiritual task: saving lost sheep who wandered off the grid into lives of despair. By creating the “continuum of care” model, they can assist not only every facet of need but pick up where they left off should “graduates” of Camillus House return for help a second time. Dickinson hopes other cities will follow his whole life model and make their own focused goals to end homelessness.

Using Your Contact List for the Greater Good

No longer active CEO of Camillus House, Dickinson acts as charitable emeritus organizing fundraisers to keep it running optimally. He calls everyone in his extensive Rolodex of business and government contacts asking for charitable contributions. The annual fundraisers generally raise millions for Camillus House, but Dickinson laments the fact that it could be much more. The only disappointment experienced in his philanthropic life was hearing people who have more than they will ever be able to spend in a lifetime say no to his request for even a small contribution. But that is happily balanced by people he knows have so little to give but do so generously from the heart.

Time, Talent, & Treasure

Laboring in the vineyard for Christ’s beloved souls, no matter who they are leads to a life of integrity. You become significant in peoples’ lives instead of merely successful in your own life. In an interview for a YouTube channel, Dickinson was asked what people themselves can do to end homelessness. His answer was simple: give your time, talents, and treasure. Your heart will automatically follow. May Dickinson’s voyage set a course for the rest of us. Learn more about Camillus House at camillus.org.