This week, we’re getting to know … Mark E. Robbins, Executive Director of the Yellow Ribbon Fund. The philosophy of the Fund is simple: wounded servicemen and women deserve first-class care as they recover. And their families deserve the same. With the help of over 1,200 volunteers, Yellow Ribbon Fund supplies the personal services that government programs just don’t cover.
1. What was your most interesting recent project, initiative, partnership, or event?
We are launching a new initiative to stay in touch with the injured service members we helped while they were being treated at Walter Reed and Bethesda Naval Hospital after they return to their hometowns. Many of these young men and women have a good support system at home and have goals of getting a job or going to college. But many do not have this safety net and we are reaching out to see how we can help.
2. What else are you up to?
We are starting to build a network of attorneys who can do pro bono work on behalf of veterans with legal needs. We are getting close to launching this effort and believe that this will be a very important service.
3. Is there a moment, person, or event that inspired you to do this particular work?
A former boss of mine introduced me to the Yellow Ribbon Fund when he knew that they were looking for an executive director. After meeting with some of the key leaders, I was excited about who and how we could help.
4. Who is your hero in the nonprofit/philanthropy world?
It is the injured service members and the families we serve. They have sacrificed so much and ask for nothing in return. When you see someone with a prosthetic arm or leg, you need to give pause and think about what they went through. Their courage and strength encourages all of us to do more for them. It doesn’t get any more inspiring that this.
5. What is the single greatest (and non-financial) challenge to the work that you do every day?
To not cry. Sometimes it is in sadness to see the injuries and consider the challenges ahead. Other times it is for joy to see someone start walking or running on their prosthetic legs.
6. What advice do you have for other people who want to work in your field?
Get involved. Volunteer. There are many opportunities to help our injured service members. Find a group that you can support. You don’t have to serve in the military to appreciate who we are helping.
7. What’s next?
Walter Reed Army Medical Center is closing in September and moving to new facilities on the grounds of Bethesda Naval Hospital. We will continue to provide support in the new facility. Ft. Belvoir will start receiving more injured service members starting in August. We are expanding our services to help the injured and their families there. These are both great challenges and opportunities to help.
EXTRA: If you could have a power breakfast with any three people (living, dead, or fictional) who would they be?
Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin — for their courage, eloquence, creative minds, vision and common sense.
John Kennedy — to see if he remembers waving to me while I was on my dad’s shoulders as he campaigned for president in front of my house. I was three.