Community Health Worker Connects Fellow Residents With Vital Supplies and Information

Daily Point of Light # 7833 Jun 13, 2024

Meet Daily Point of Light Award honoree Robin Charles. Read her story, and nominate an outstanding volunteer or family as a Daily Point of Light. 

Robin Charles, 42, has long been acutely aware of the gaps that need to be filled in her community. In her role as a senior public health educator for the Houston Health Department, she touts the dangers of lead exposure for children, particularly in low-income communities living in older homes.  

Her sister, Ashley, started The Baby Stewart Foundation after losing her son, and Robin quickly joined her in focusing volunteer efforts on connecting individuals and families with basic necessities. Spending time with her own family and making a difference in the lives of those around her is her passion.  

Robin also volunteers with Friends of Mayor Keith Bell doing neighborhood cleanups and advocating for community interests with political leaders. She works at food and school supply drives with fellow Texas Southern University alumni, Noche’ Berry’s Salon’s outreach events and local politician Keith Henry’s Thanksgiving turkey drives. Her continued engagement in the community she grew up in is moving residents towards a future where everyone has what they need.

What inspires you to volunteer? 

I’ve been a case manager and know that there’s always been a gap in the needs of working-class families. Before The Baby Stewart Foundation, I was helping with Christmas drives for children whose parents are incarcerated and helping with food pantries. People think that just because you have a job that you can afford stuff, but that’s not always the case. You can work until your fingers fall off, and you still may not have enough for daycare, car emergencies, gas and food.  

When you see your community hurting and no one really recognizes that, it impacts you. You do whatever you can. Seeing the barriers that my sister went through, I wanted to make sure we were helping as much as possible.

Robin joins Friends of Keith Bell in handing out supplies./Courtesy Robin Charles

Tell us about your volunteer role with The Baby Stewart Foundation and beyond. 

I help with contribution management which includes planning and distributing donations—clothes, school supplies, baby necessities, etc.— coordinating support services and taking part in community improvement and cleanup initiatives. I’m the person setting up tabling for events, picking up and storing items and just being there. Sometimes, our volunteers can get overwhelmed, and I’m the peacemaker. I help calm everyone down. 

Lately, we’ve been having a lot of storms, so I’ve been trying to connect with partners for people who have been displaced or are without electricity. I’ll make sure they have the hygiene kits that my sister just acquired. We have a lot of things that the community needs, but if they’re not in their hands, it’s a waste.  

What’s been the most rewarding part of your work? 

I love when people come up and talk to you. It’s interesting to see a smile on a person’s face when you’ve just met them and to spark up a conversation and find a connection, even if they just come to say thank you. Children will hug you.  

It’s really connected me to my community. It’s not that I think I’m better just because I have a few more blessings. The most rewarding thing is that my community knows we’re here for them; it’s not about us. It’s about making sure they’re taken care of. 

What have you learned through your experiences as a volunteer? 

More patience and less talking. Try to understand, but at the same time, have boundaries. 

Tell us about future partnerships, programs or events that you are excited about. 

There’s a police officer who celebrates his birthday with unhoused individuals instead of having a party. He invites different agencies to come out and do vaccines, haircuts and other services. We’re looking forward to partnering with him.  

We just want to let our community know that we’re here to help and to maybe do more cleanups and petitioning for green spaces. My background is in environmental health. If you walk outside and see trash, you can’t take pride in your community. You’re not taking pride in yourself. If you’re in a clean space, you’re more likely to keep it clean. If you see more greenery and it looks like an environment that you can thrive in, you’re more likely to take care of it. We’re doing this now, but we’re hoping to incorporate younger people in order to keep it going. 

Why is it important for others to get involved with causes they care about? 

This is all we have. If we don’t take care of it, we can’t expect anyone else to come in and save us. How are we going to take care of ourselves? What really motivated me to make small changes was growing up in the 80s. We watched our community go from being a place where you could play outside in the front yard to where you couldn’t go outside for anything unless you had an adult with you. If someone offered you some water or something, you could take it. Now, you have to look down when you’re walking. You can’t even connect with your neighbors. How are we going to make the change to get what we need? 

Any advice for people who want to start volunteering? 

Just start somewhere, even if it’s picking up trash on your street or in your yard. People are always watching your actions, positive or negative, and you could impact someone. Start and stay consistent.  

What do you want people to learn from your story? 

Put the time in, even if it’s a few hours. A few hours can change someone’s life or way of thinking. You don’t have to have a lot of money or be a superhero. It’s not easy, because you’re working with populations who have been shunned. Come in and help without taking over. Just try to make an impact any way you can. 

Do you want to make a difference in your community like Robin? Find local volunteer opportunities. 

Kristin Park