By Lori Berkey, Contributing Writer
Northborough – From as far back as she can remember, Northborough resident Mary Robbins can recall her mother being involved in community service. It inspired her interest in volunteering and entering the human service field to make a career out of helping others. She now serves as vice president for programs for the Worcester Area Mission Society (WAMS), a post where she is a catalyst for changes in the community.
According to Robbins, WAMS is unique in that it is both faith-based and fully committed to raising and supporting the civic awareness and decision-making needed to move the region forward. The organization collaborates with leaders from congregations, community organizations, universities, social service agencies, philanthropic foundations, scientific associations, public policy groups, businesses, government departments and other entities to build relationships that inspire opportunities for community members to help each other.
Robbins’ path to her present work was shaped by her early experiences. As a small child, she spent much time with her mom in the “Special Room” where she volunteered. She remembers playing with people who looked like grown-ups but who also seemed just like her, because they liked to do things that children enjoy such as playing games and coloring.
“This exposure to people who were different (older looking) and yet the same, helped me appreciate people for who they are at a very young age,” Robbins said.
Another early experience molded her values.
When she was about 7, she went with her Brownie troop to the courthouse and saw a mother being charged for stealing a pound of hamburger. Having had plenty of food at her house, it never occurred to her that others did not. She felt confused, as she thought people who steal were bad people and wondered if it made that mother a bad person.
“When I asked my mom about this, she didn’t tell me that ‘yes,’ this woman was bad; what she told me is that this was a person so desperate to feed her children that she would risk everything, including being caught for stealing. And that it was our job to appreciate the food we had and to work toward helping others who weren’t as fortunate to have enough food to eat as well.”
Robbins said she did a lot of volunteering with her mother over the next several years and continued that with her own kids who are now 18, 20 and 23.
In her present role at WAMS, the main initiatives she is responsible for are Service Learning for Youth and Partnering to Overcome Community Challenges, both of which she finds very satisfying.
“The best part of my job is meeting and working with people,” she said. “People who are frustrated by the system, people who are working to better the system, people who are spending their lives caring, listening to and being there for others.”
WAMS was established in 1829 and achieved many “firsts” for Massachusetts including partnering to bring about the initial housing program for people living with AIDS. For more information about the organization, visit www.wamsworks.org.