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People who make a Difference: Sabrina Robins

Chief operating officer, volunteer, mentor – African Heritage Inc., YMCA of the Fox Cities, United Way Fox Cities

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September 23, 2022

APPLETON – Sabrina Robins, the chief operating officer for AbaCor LLC, an Abaxent LLC Co. (a technical solutions company in Appleton), said being involved in her community is something she’s always been drawn to do.

“I’m a woman of faith, and it’s really, ‘to whom much is given, much is expected,’” she said. “I’ve always had the support I needed to get to the next level or the next task I needed in life. I believe in the laws of reciprocity – if you do good things, it comes back to you. I believe strongly in community investment and supporting those who share the same values.”

A sense of belonging
A native of Muskegon, Michigan, Robins said she made her way to Northeast Wisconsin right out of college.

“I was recruited out of my doctoral program at Wayne State by Kimberly Clark,” she said. “While working at Kimberly Clark, they were encouraging and supportive of their employees, especially their leaders, to also be involved in the community.”

Robins said the support she received from her employer to give back afforded her the opportunity to serve on various boards and volunteer with a number of organizations.

“It was, I feel, an expectation we volunteer and serve where we work,” she said.

Robins said, for her, it was also about becoming a part of a community she now called home.

Shortly after moving to the area, Robins said she began volunteering with African Heritage Inc., an Appleton nonprofit that seeks to provide a support system for Black and African Americans through the promotion of cross-cultural understanding and education.

“When I moved here, we didn’t have a high population,” she said. “In fact, it was far less than 1% – .03% actually. I, myself, needed support and needed to know where to get my hair done and find some of the cultural foods. But I also wanted to be around people who looked like me as well, and understood my cultural background and be able to have that sense of community and support.”

It’s an organization that became important to Robins.

“I’ve been a member of that organization for nearly 24 years,” she said. “For years, I was simply a volunteer. If they had events, I’d volunteer there, and then eventually, I became a board member. We are the ones who started celebrating Juneteenth in Appleton.”

Multiple organizations
Robins’ volunteering efforts didn’t stop there.

Over the past more than two decades, she has volunteered her time and expertise to help varying organizations throughout Northeast Wisconsin.

Robins has served on the Plan Commission for the City of Appleton since 2019.

“There are a lot of times through volunteering, either on a task force or for a one time event, that gives me the chance to learn about things I don’t know,” she said. “So, I serve on the planning commission for the City of Appleton and am learning a lot about our own land use and the importance of it.”

Sabrina Robins

Robins has also served as an advisor on the Fox Cities YMCA’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Committee since 2010.

“Right now, I’m on the diversity inclusion and belonging committee, and getting an understanding of some of the newcomers and their needs we have in our society – so learning more about those that come from trauma backgrounds and what refugees status means.”

Robins said sometimes helping can mean bringing awareness to others about the needs of newcomers.

“We all need something and we don’t have the answers within ourselves,” she said. “So to link with others who care about a shared vision in the shared society and a shared belief that we also have equal access, makes a better community and region for us.”

In the past, Robins also served as a board member for the United Way Fox Cities, as well as a long-time troop leader for the Girl Scouts of the Northwestern Great Lakes, Inc.

“I was the Girl Scout troop leader for many years – we sold cookies and went to camp,” she said. “It was wonderful to nurture and mentor all those young girls. Mentoring is important to me.”

Robins said she volunteers wherever she is needed.

“Whether it is a regular volunteer or as a leader and if there are organizations that I believe in, then I serve,” she said.

The power of giving
Though she didn’t grow up in Appleton, Robins said Northeast Wisconsin is home, and it’s important to her to be involved.

“I do prefer to live in smaller communities, and I like the idea of knowing the people in the community,” she said. “I’ve had a great experience here. I feel like a full community participant, and I’ve had a chance to develop some really good friends and some have transitioned into family status. It’s home. I don’t feel like a transplant. I am proud to live in Northeast Wisconsin, and feel fortunate to be one of the leaders to help set a vision – that’s work that I take seriously.”

Robins said she encourages others to give back to the best of their abilities.

“A lot of people are busy, and they’re quick to say, ‘no’ and I’ve always tried to find a way to say, ‘yes,’” she said. “For my daughter, I try to model that, so that she sees that, but then also provide a way for her to participate.”

Robins said when her daughter was younger, she often attended board meetings with her or accompanied her to volunteer events.

“Those that know me, when (my daughter) was younger, she would attend meetings with me and she would volunteer with me,” she said. “It is my hope and desire she continues that as she finds her way. That in whatever capacity she has, she can help others find their way as well.”

Robins said she always plans to give back to her community, but what that looks like will likely change over time.

“I plan to always stay involved to the best of my ability, but service and advisor,” she said. “And so whatever leverage or exposure I have to be able to shine that light on the next two generations. It’s a new world, and there’s new ways of doing things. I look forward to learning from them and any guidance I can do to help them along the way, I’m all about it. We have some amazing young people excited about what they’re going to do.”

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