The Power of Volunteering


Volunteers are vital to the success of Martha’s Table.  Not only do volunteers help sustain our programs, but they also make a direct impact on the life of a person in need.  A wonderful example of the relationships formed here at Martha’s Table is the story of Wendy Banner and Donald Robinson.  This is the power of what can be achieved through volunteering, as well as the power of the human connection.

Here is their story in Wendy’s words:

“I first met Donald Robinson through Martha’s Table’s after-school tutoring program around 1989 and we met two times a week.  He wasn’t a natural student but almost always showed up and did his work.  He was pretty quiet in those days, and if he got frustrated with his homework, he would just put his head down on the table and wouldn’t talk to me the rest of the session.  Personally, I think he was testing me to see if I would stick with him.  I did.

I tutored Donald for four or five years – I got married to my husband Bob in 1991 and got pregnant with my first daughter in 1994.  By then, the tutoring was down to once a week and Donald was struggling to keep up at school.  Although Donald did not graduate high school, I helped him to obtain his GED several years later.  I still remember the smile of his toothless little brother, Travis, pushing the broom around sweeping up the room after the tutoring sessions.  Years later, I helped bury this brother who became a victim of violence on the DC city streets.

 Donald has come a long way since the 10 year old boy I met.  He has grown into a man who is self assured, confident and has a good sense of self.  He has not been perfect, but given the obstacles he has faced there is no judgment to be passed.  In many ways he has become my first child – the big brother to my two daughters, Erica and Danielle.  We have a room for him at our home where he is welcome anytime and we are lucky to be able to share in the diversity of our upbringing and lives.  We have learned from each other about overcoming racial stereotypes and tolerances, and at the end of the day the student has also become the teacher – and the lessons have been priceless.

We are blessed to still have Donald Robinson in our lives.  Today he is 31, works for me in my real estate office and is still a part of my family as he will be always.”

Wendy & Bob Banner, Erica & Danielle