Looking to make a difference in her southeast community with people that are often disenfranchised, for 38 years Robin Myers has been feeding the needy, visiting the sick and shut-ins and simply “giving a damn” about some of the most vulnerable residents in the District.
Myers is a reliable resource and caring neighbor, but most especially she is an undaunted community activist who performs acts of kindness without the thought of monetary reward. For the past 17 years, Myers has distributed turkeys and food baskets to dozens of people around Thanksgiving. She accomplishes this annual feat by pooling her money with Woodrow Sheffield, a close friend and fellow philanthropist who works for the local government. She receives additional donations from individuals and groups like the United Planning Organization (UPO). The plan this November is to increase her output and deliver holiday meals to 125 households.
“It is a fulfillment I get out of helping people,” said Myers, 54, after being asked why she continues to commit to community outreach after so many years. “I grew up fortunate. I didn’t need anything. My mother and grandmother and uncle gave us everything. I enjoy helping me people reach another level in their lives. Some people in today’s generation do not have that southern grandmother that I had. I like trying to show them how to reach their full potential.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has not stopped her community outreach efforts, although it has made Myers even more concerned for her neighbors that are most at-risk. She takes the necessary precautions by wearing a face mask and gloves and maintaining social distancing, because she knows that her overall mission is too important for a 12 to 18-month hiatus until a vaccine is identified, approved and made available.
Thus, she remains a constant presence by helping to feed the homeless and others on Thursdays at 1 p.m. at the UPO Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene Community Service Center, located at 2907 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE, by giving out free grocery bags that contain fresh produce, canned foods and perishable goods donated by Martha’s Table. With the assistance of her contacts at UPO, where Myers once served as a Program Assistant and still volunteers, residents are encouraged to complete their 2020 Census applications on site or show proof of completion in exchange for a delicious catered fish dinner.
These days, the independent contractor and Community Outreach Specialist with UDC’s Paving Access Trails For Higher Security (PATHS) program, makes regular visits is to the Clinton Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Prince George’s County to deliver food and care packages. She used to visit for a couple of hours before COVID-19, but now she is only allowed to leave the packages in the lobby and go.
Ebony Stoddard-Barber, a mother of four who works in Safeway’s seafood department, initially met Myers about 15 years ago and has greatly benefited from her generosity.
“If I need to talk to her at 5 o’clock in the morning, she is there for me and my kids financially, mentally and every way. She is like a second mother to me especially after my mom died. Ms. Myers is active in my kids’ lives and has taken them out to so many different places. She has been a complete sweetheart and I am there for her because she has always been there for me,” Stoddard-Barber said.
Aileen Mizzell, 67, is another client who credits Myers for completely changing not only her life but her family’s as well. Mizzell was able to acquire her Food Handler’s license, CPR certificate, FEMA certificate and parenting class completion thanks to Myers. The senior is disabled and in need of a new powered wheelchair. She is hopeful that Myers can assist in obtaining another wheelchair.
Myers bought her house in the Congress Heights neighborhood in Ward 8 more than 20 years ago. She grew up in northwest as the oldest of three children before the family moved to southeast on East Capitol. She graduated from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and later earned an undergraduate degree from Trinity University. Myers fondly remembers taking lots of family trips to cities like New York and Philadelphia and still enjoys traveling today.
She cherishes the concept of family even more. Although Myers has given birth just once in her life to her daughter Endia Myers, she has raised a total of 13 children from infancy to adulthood including her godson D-Andre Gaither. Some of these children have come into her life because their biological parents were incarcerated, heavily addicted to narcotics or had other extenuating circumstances preventing them from parenting as well as Myers. Sometimes parents and family members would drop their children or siblings off at her house for months at a time and pick them back up for short periods before the cycle would start again.
Myers says, “having friends in high places who were willing to help me feed and support these children” was the primary reason she survived financially. One anonymous friend would give her an undisclosed amount of money each month to buy food. Myers, who never legally adopted a child or ever became a foster parent, has always treated every infant, toddler or adolescent in her home the same—with lots of love and care.
The late Willie Mae Gantt, Myers’ maternal grandmother, inspired her life of community activism. Ms. Gantt would take the teenage Myers with her to feed the homeless at the elder’s Bible Way Church, located at 1100 New Jersey Avenue, NW. They would also make regular visits to the defunct DC General Hospital to crochet blankets for the sickest and often abandoned babies.
“I know that this has to be from God and the guidance of my grandmother. I would never had thought about doing some of the stuff that I am doing,” Myers said about her life’s work and helping others.