Robinson believes in giving back to the community

Published 4:03 pm Friday, March 5, 2010

She grew up in the Greenville neighborhood known as Sweet Gum Bottom in the 1920s and 1930s. Times were tough but people helped out one another.

84 years later, Willie Mae Robinson is still an active part of her hometown. Whether it’s offering her blue-ribbon-winning canned goods and baked goods at the Optimist Club’s Annual Sweet Potato Festival, hosting a meeting in her home of the Thrifty-Teers Professional Club, or delivering plates to shut-ins on Thanksgiving, volunteerism is a role that comes naturally to her.

“That’s how we were raised – to share with other people. We’d go as children and sweep people’s yards for them, things like that. Community service always was important to me,” Robinson says.

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This civic-minded lady served the Butler County School System as an elementary teacher for 35 years.

It was during those years Robinson began collecting the many documents, photos, periodicals, artwork and more that fill the Black History Museum that sits behind her W. Commerce Street home.

The museum is another way for Robinson to share with the community, through its celebration of family, local, national and international figures marking milestones for African-Americans.

Her interest in history also led her to join the Butler County Historical Society, where she serves as a volunteer one day a week in their research room at the local library.

As an arts supporter, Robinson sponsors student tickets for Greenville Area Arts Council productions, allowing young people to experience live theater who might otherwise never get the chance. In addition to her years as an educator, Robinson also served 33 years as a Girl Scout leader.

She reaches out to help the young and the old.

“I have several older folks over at Manor Court Apartments I take to the doctor, to church and grocery shopping, or to some of the senior seminars and health presentations we have in town,” Robinson says.

The increase in activities and programs for the city’s senior citizens is one of the biggest changes the life-long resident says she has seen in the Camellia City.

“Greenville has really improved a lot in working with seniors. The senior nutrition center, the Camellia senior center, the seminars at Beeland Park and the hospital . . . there are a lot of good programs out there,” Robinson said.

And a lot of opportunities to give back.

“It just means a lot to me to be able to help folks out,” she says.