As a Black woman, I look at Black History Month as a chance to celebrate the many things that define our people and culture. Volunteering has always been part of who I am and is one of the things that helps me define my culture and serve my community.
From an early age, my mother, Avonda Robinson, raised me to help others and give back to my community. When I was 9 years old, she left her Baptist upbringing and joined our neighborhood church, Nativity Catholic Church in Washington, D.C. After we were both baptized, she quickly got involved, volunteering at spaghetti dinners and car washes to help raise funds for the church. Before I knew it, she had me volunteering in plays, pageants and holiday masses – I even served as an altar girl. This was special to me because it was a role that was traditionally performed by boys only.
Because of the wonderful experiences I had at Nativity, in 3rd grade I continued to follow my mom’s lead and volunteered for a chapter of a children’s literacy not-for-profit organization, Reading is Fundamental. As an only child, books were my best friend, so it was very exciting to help unwrap, categorize, and place the incoming books on the shelves twice a year before we had a book sale fundraiser (it was also nice to have first pick at the books!).
At age 15, I started teaching Sunday school at the church, and over the next nine years I would gain new skills in patience, build lifelong friendships, and even learn how to weave baskets! The volunteering didn't stop there. After high school, I often went back to my elementary school to help some of my former teachers with their classes. Later, when my son was in school, I enjoyed volunteering in his classroom and chaperoning field trips.
Fast forward to my career at L3Harris. In the fall of 2017, I was excited to find out that we had a local Employee Resource Group called the African American Resource Group (AARG) – now known as L3Harris Employees of African Descent (LEAD). It didn’t take much prodding from my colleagues before I signed up! We have held many activities with the goal of uplifting and empowering each other – not only our members but also, allys and those in our communities where we live and work. This year, I am proud to serve as a chapter president of LEAD Herndon and one of my focuses this year will be on mental health in the Black community. Oftentimes we don’t want to talk about mental health issues impacting our community, and some are told to “pray it away” or suppress their feelings. I want everyone to know that it’s OK to talk to someone, so our chapter is hosting a speaker on mental health during Black History Month.
From the early days of helping my mom out at church fundraisers, to leading an Employee Resource Group chapter, volunteering has always been an important part of my life. I thank my mom for teaching me the value of giving back and helping those who are in need. Feeling a sense of community is so important. We are all human beings, and we need to work together to make our world a better place.