Many people volunteer through a number of organizations, such as churches, hospitals and civic groups. There are many ways that you can volunteer. Michelle Collins-Robinson lends her talents wherever she can get involved.
Whether it’s the Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia (CHSV), First Baptist Church of Centralia, raising funds for American Civil War Sesquicentennial or being appointed to Gov. McDonnell’s Department of Medical Assistant Services committee, Ms. Collins-Robinson offers her time where she can lead the parade to big things.
Recently, Collins-Robinson, lent her talent to help organize a section of the Richmond Symphony to perform at the First Baptist Church of Centralia. You may also know her for organizing Tavern Talk at Howlett’s Restaurant and Tavern. With guests such as former Sen. George Allen, candidate for the Senate; Terry McCullough; Tim and Daphne Reid; and a forum of newspaper editors – Collins-Robinson, through CHSV, added culture to the village of Chester.
Born in Norfolk, Collins-Robinson made her way to Chester via Philadelphia, Cleveland, Virginia Beach and a number of other locations. She said she found Chester to be extremely lacking in cultural activities. She says, it’s one reason she began to volunteer here.
“I was sitting reading the ‘New York SD [Social Diary,] the Washington edition, and came upon a section about different forums that were going on in the city and I said that would be very neat for this area.”
“I try to stay busy,” Collins-Robinson said. She says she spends her time volunteering and consulting.
Collins-Robinson is currently working to raise money for a monument that will overlook the Dutch Gap Canal that was built by African-American soldiers during the Civil War for the Union troops.
The memorial monument is tentatively named “U.S. Colored Troops Memorial.”
“The Henricus Foundation did approve it.” Charles Grant, director of Henricus Historical Park said. “But they will not be paying for it. The money will be raised by an independent group.” He said the project will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $50,000. Grant said he thinks the project is still a year away.
First Baptist Church of Centralia is working to bring more culture to the area and Collins-Robinson is a big part of that effort. She says the Richmond Symphony concert was one of their first attempts to do so. She also said she would like to get more involved with the Chesterfield Center for the Arts Foundation, which when completed, will be a focal point for arts and culture in the Chester area.
Her work with the CHSV is primarily devoted to recognizing African-American history, which is so much a part of Chesterfield’s past, although she does hold a position on the board.
“We’ve just been glad to have her as a valued member of the board,” said Therese “Tra” Wagenknecht, president of the CHSV. Mrs. Wagenknecht said she has been very helpful with fundraising.
“It seems like most people focus on black history during Black history month,” Collins-Robinson said. “But I would like to see black history recognized all year round.” She thinks that there are many blacks and black families who people need to know about including Marguerite Christian, the Friend family and Magnolia Patron, who are just a few of the black population in Chesterfield who have done good things.
Just prior to the Village News interview, Collins-Robinson had just returned from the Virginia Union 35th annual leadership breakfast. She said, “The leadership breakfast brings together not only political leaders but volunteers for the nonprofit organizations. It’s also a chance for the nonprofits to get in front of the political leaders.” She was nominated for the Department of Medical Assistant Services Board position by someone she says she doesn’t know. “You know, you can nominate anyone for one of the governors committees. Whenever a new person comes in they can nominate anyone to any of the boards.” She said she wondered how people end up being nominated for these boards. How does someone in a little cubbyhole somewhere end up on one of the governor’s boards. She looked into it finding that it’s just a matter of someone to fill out a form to nominate you.
Collins-Robinson is very much involved in state politics. She said she will be working for Terry McAuliffe during his run for Virginia Governor. Collins-Robinson is a force to be reckoned with and will be seen more as time goes on volunteering to make our home a better place.