Everyday Heroes:
Robin Freeman -- 'hands-on service'

By Liz Garone

The first time CharityFocus volunteer Robin Freeman went to a Help-the-Homeless drive in San Francisco, she and the other volunteers didn't know where to look for homeless people, so Robin asked a policeman where she could find them. "He looked at me like I was nuts," she remembers. Two years later and a handful of Help-the-Homeless drives later, Robin knows exactly where to go to find the people she wants to help.

When out on drives, her first instinct is maternal, she says, looking to protect the people she meets. Usually, the people Robin approaches are women, sitting off to the side, by themselves. "I don't wait for people to come to me. I go up to them," she says. Acting like a mom comes naturally to Robin, who raised two sons, Aaron, now 24, and Chris, now 22, on her own. "They're great guys," says Robin. "They both amaze me. I'm so blessed to be their mom." Before the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Utah, Chris wrote to the United States Olympic Committee. His essay landed him and his mom two of the coveted spots on the Olympic Torch Relay. "It was amazing," remembers Robin. Aaron, Robin's other son, is deaf. "This has been a blessing in some ways. Aaron only 'hears' what he pulls in," explains Robin. "The daily junk that we all hear, the bad stuff, he doesn't hear. This has made him really compassionate and loving."

Vimi Pandey, a CF volunteer, has seen Robin in action at a number of Help-the-Homeless drives. "Robin is a very warm and loving person, always making everyone comfortable and welcome," says Vimi. "She has a wonderful attitude towards giving of her time and effort and even love."

While much of the nitty-gritty of CharityFocus needs to be done from behind a computer screen, Robin makes sure her involvement is not. "I sit at a computer all day, so I leave that to the other volunteers," she says. "I like hands-on stuff. In other words, I like interacting with people."

When Robin isn't volunteering or putting in long hours at her job with ReplayTV, she likes to spend time with her two dogs, both shelties, Luna and Abby Gayle, her bearded dragon, Spud, and, most importantly, her boyfriend of eight years, Mark Searles. "He makes me laugh at least 10 times a day, which means he's a keeper," she says. "I love to laugh."

In addition to the cast of characters at home, Robin also keeps some rather unusual company: bats. "I love bats, and I want to teach children about them because they're cool and creepy until you get to know them," says Robin. Her latest goal is to become a bat rehabilitator and keep a few non-releasable bats at her home. To become certified as a bat rehabilitator, she needs to spend two years handling the bats under the guidance of someone who already has a permit. Robin recently began training under Lisa Windflower of Bat Crew (http://www.batcrew.com/) Lisa and her crew have been featured on the TV show, Bay Area Backroads. "She's just awesome," says Robin.

The attraction to those in need of help isn't completely altruistic, says Robin. "I have an affinity for the underdog," she explains. "I'm very selfish. I help people and animals because it's good for me."

Selfishness has nothing to do with it, says Nan Blum, Robin's cousin and best friend. "Throughout Robin's life, her most consistent quality has been a tender lovingness, which she both intrinsically exudes and also exhibits towards others. By revealing her own tenderness so easily, she draws one to a place where one is willing to display his or her own frailties," says Blum. "She then becomes supportive and giving, willing to set aside her own personality, ego, and needs to help with the problem at hand. Robin possesses both enormous amounts of compassion and drive."

In the little spare time Robin has, she reads voraciously, usually two to three books a week on every subject imaginable. Recently, she finished a book about octopus and squid. "Did you know that the biggest squid is 60 feet long?!" she says, sharing her newfound knowledge. "I didn't go to college, so I'm educating myself."

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