Stories of Service: Betty L. Robinette

Congratulations to Betty L. Robinette of Wytheville – winner of the 2021 Governor’s Volunteerism and Community Service Award for Outstanding Senior Volunteer! For people who live in rural areas, fighting hunger is a serious issue. Communities like Southwest Virginia face a number of challenges – from scarcity of grocery stores and food pantries compounded with a lack of transportation to diminishing job opportunities and higher rates of unemployment.

This is where Betty Robinette saw a growing need and did more than step into make a difference. Betty was the catalyst that started the Community Food Kitchen in 2012. When the local homeless shelter closed its doors, she jumped into action and volunteered countless hours bringing together faith and civic leaders to serve warm meals to individuals experiencing homelessness. Thousands of meals later, Betty expanded the effort to help create a more sustainable and innovative organization – the Open Door Café. Today the successful donate-what-you-can restaurant serves food insecure individuals in downtown Wytheville.

A regular volunteer at the café as well, Betty has served six hours a week since her retirement. She developed a partnership with a local nonprofit and got help from an AmeriCorps VISTA to expand the project. Today the café averages 91 meals per day, with 85% of those meals going tofood insecure individuals!

Thanks to Betty, the Open Door Café is not just a refuge providing meals to hungry individuals and families. It is a place designed to strengthen the community where folks of diverse backgrounds share a meal and get to know each other better. As a local pastor (and regular Friday dishwasher) said, ” there’s a lot more than
food going on at the Open Door Café.” Betty is the absolute life blood of the community whose passion for helping others is contagious – inspiring others to find ways to make a real difference.

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